This was certainly an interesting experience. After finishing the movie I felt, well, numb. I was not quite sure what to make of it, and I have to admit to being lost much of the time. I got the idea of what was going on, but a lot of the surrounding whys, whos, and whats remained an enigma. It is definitely an intriguing low budget entry. Numb is existentialist science fiction which questions our choices, dives into a tale of obsession and addiction, and what defines not so much life as living.
Set in the future, there was an outbreak of some sort of disease which threatened the future of humanity. In order to thwart the effects of the disease, a drug was developed as a treatment. However, the treatment turns out to be an addictive substance that has become known as "the drip." As we move through the film, virtually everyone we meet is hooked up to these IV bags filled with the drip. It is a bleak, unsettling future, which is really no future at all. What is life if we are only going to exist as these zoned out zombies constantly fed by the seeming never ending supply of the narcotic-like substance.
The entire world of Numb is dark, depressing, and is just not the kind of future that I would want to have any part of. It is a world that offers no hope, there is no room for advancement, no real reason for being. The beings are simply there, hooked up to the drip, served by these odd people called "angels" whose only purpose is to serve the drip addicts. I cannot imagine being in this type of society, and it is realized in a convincing manner that sucks you in.
Believe it or not, there actually is a bit of a narrative story threaded through this bleak future existence. It is the story of Claire, one of the few people left who is not hooked on the trance-inducing liquid. She may also be the last person with any feeling of hope. In the service of her last remaining bit of hope, she sets out to find her father, who also happens to be the man behind the creation of the future-killing, world-enslaving drug. Claire journeys into Yerba City, a decrepit den of druggies and the enabling angels. Her journey has her meet up with the enigmatic Miles. He is an oddity among the zombie folk of the city. Miles joins her on her quest, as they discuss their existence, the effects of the drug, and their reasons for going on.
Well, I don't want to give it all away, and I am not really sure I could if I tried, so I am not going to. This is a film that could be called boring, dull, and meaningless just as easily as meaningful, intriguing, and fascinating, others could call it pretentious in its attempted artiness. I fall somewhere near the meaningful range, though I am not sure what it is supposed to mean. I will say that is successful at creating this other world.
Writer/Director Michael Ferris Gibson did a lot with the low budget nature. It is shot in black and white, interspersed with super-8 style home video-like color sequences. He has crafted a world where we do not learn much of the specifics, but rather are left to try and fill in the narrative blanks as Claire goes on her journey. It is a movie that is definitely worth watching, and skillfully patched together. I also have to mention to really liking the haunting music that is woven throughout, it has a beautiful, lyrical quality that suits the depressing and creepy atmosphere.
Audio/Video. This is a low budget production, so the technicals are not the best, but they still look quite good. The black and white look has nice definition and detail, and it is framed well within the 1.78:1 widescreen frame. The audio is straight stereo, and does a nice job of mixing our dialogue with the background effect.
Extras. There are a few deleted scenes and a commentary track with the director. The track is a good one, Gibson gives plenty of information about what is going on in the film as well as background on the making of the film, things like the film was in production for ten years!
Bottom line. This is a good movie; it may be a little obtuse and hard to penetrate, but it is a success of low budget filmmaking. The acting is decent, the look is fantastic, and the slow pacing works to the enigma that is Yerba City, Tiburon, and the world of Numb.