[Review] PARALLEL: Alternate Realities Bring Out the Worst in Four Friends in This Terrific Science Fiction Chiller

I have been a big fan of director Isaac Ezban’s work since seeing his first two features The Incident (2014) and The Similars (2015) during their film festival runs, and have been anticipating his third feature at the helm, Parallel (2018), since first hearing about it. Whereas Ezban wrote and directed those first two Spanish-language films in his native Mexico, Parallel is his first directorial effort with a screenplay by another writer — Scott Blaszak — his first English-language effort, and it was filmed in Canada. So how does Ezban fare with these three firsts?

Quite masterfully. Although Parallel doesn’t have the existential gravity of The Incident nor the absurd insanity of The Twilight Zone-flavored The Similars, it is a thrilling, fun science fiction outing with tinges of horror — and, hoo boy, is there a doozy of a scene that fits that category —  that is Ezban’s most accessible film so far. Hopefully, this feature will help him find the wider audience that his work deserves.

Noel (Martin Wallstrom), Josh (Mark O’Brien), and Devin (Aml Ameen) are software developers hoping to get funded for a parking app start-up. They share a Seattle house with designer and somewhat frustrated artist Leena (Georgia King). After blowing off some frustrations with alcohol one evening, they accidentally discover a hidden attic housing a mirror that is a portal to alternate dimensions. The realities in those other worlds are rather similar to the one that they live in, with some exceptions. Rather than using this newfound power for good, the foursome begins living off their alternate selves’ credit cards and taking advantage of them in other ways, while also using the speeded-up time in the other dimensions to successfully develop their parking app against an impossibly short deadline. 

As their behavior worsens, some of the housemates begin to feel pangs of guilt, while others take advantage of women and business and technology ventures. After one of them falls in harm’s way, the other three find their allegiances to each other fraying as more dangerous chances are taken.

The ensemble cast pulls off the difficult feat of giving viewers reasons to keep rooting for characters who display censurable behavior. All four leads acquit themselves well, with each actor getting nice showcase scenes. They play off of each other solidly and make their flawed relationships feel real.

Blaszak’s screenplay serves up plenty of suspense and intrigue peppered with humor. The alternate realities science doesn’t get overly heady — which this reviewer appreciates — focusing on the human drama and dangers at stake.

Ezban directs with flair and élan. He knows his way around stories concerning alternate realities and multiple identities, and he keeps all of the varied factors in Parallel finely balanced. His pacing is marvelous, keeping things running at an exciting clip and making the most of the tension between its main characters.

If Parallel is your first Isaac Ezban film, welcome to his unique vision. Parallel will get your pulse racing, then go to The Incident and my favorite, The Similars, to get your mind blown.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Parallel, from Vertical Entertainment, is available in select theaters and On Demand from December 11, 2020.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.