An idyllic, small, self-sufficient community. On the surface, it seems like the perfect neighborhood. Everything you could possibly need is within walking distance. But the pastoral exterior conceals a dark past and an even darker secret. As a group of individuals (each with their own ties and agendas with the town and each other) converge on the enclave, strange things begin to happen. Very strange things. Strange enough to test (and then break) the very fabric of reality itself.
Directed by: Mel House
. Starring: Denton Blane Everett
, Adrienne King
, Reggie Bannister
, Glenn Morshower
, Kathy Lamkin
, Debbie Rochon
, Katie Featherston
, Shannon Lark
, Cesar Castillo
, Omar Adam
, James LaMarr
, Melanie Donihoo
, Natalie Jones
. Music by: Dwayne Cathey
, Mel House
First and foremost, no matter how ambitious they are or how wide-ranging, Mel House is fascinated by ideas. He's not afraid to show it, and not afraid to spend some quality time exploring those concepts. This is not a man for whom 'babes, boobs and blood' are the staples of genre filmmaking, (and when you have a beautiful, talented and intelligent spouse like his frequent repertory player, Melanie Donahoo, they'd sure as hell better not be.) For Mel, it's always been about putting meat on the bones of the story, before ripping it off the bodies of his cast.
And herein is where WALKING DISTANCE'S greatest strength lies, along with its "Achilles heel." This is a cornucopia, a visual and visceral smörgåsbord of ideas... A film that not only merits, but probably DEMANDS repeat viewings before you can actually take it all in. Which may have been part of the plan from jump, but for an average fanboy for whom the height of intellectual cinematic bliss is watching SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE for the umpteenth time, WALKING DISTANCE is the equivalent of asking someone whose favorite author is R.L. Stine, to briefly describe the joys of reading Marcel Proust.
Though the opening sequence is something right out of Dante Alligheri-meets-Salvador Dali on a crack bender, it settles into a tale of what seems like two completely separate individuals: research scientist Cole Grey (Denton Blane Everett) and convicted pedophile Joseph Webber (PHANTASM alum Reggie Bannister, knocking the hell out of typecasting in a vastly different role). Dr. Grey has recently been hired by a nameless corporation that runs and sponsors a self-contained, peaceful, storybook little community, whose inhabitants live and work at the hub of the enclave, known only as "The Facility." Everything is situated for maximum efficiency and convenience - always within "walking distance" of wherever anyone needs to go.
But this is not "Wisteria Lane", folks. More like "HYSTERIA Lane," and then some. There is corruption of all kinds simmering under the surface. Corruption of the land and of resources - much of it deliberate, and even a gross corruption of the very minds and bodies of the people themselves. And all of this yet for Dr. Grey to discover, as he is escorted onto the premises by his new boss, the Facility's leader, Louise Strack, played with panache by "FRIDAY THE 13TH" vet Adrienne King, who returns to acting in this meaty role, her first since taking down Pamela Voorhees (and then being taken out by her son in return.)
On the other hand, recently released sex offender Webber, unable to find residence anywhere else that he won't be beaten up, harassed and otherwise ostracized, has been given what basically amounts to free housing in the Facility's community. Usually the motivation for such an arrangement would indicate something along the lines of blackmail or some sort of cover-up, but the reasons behind assisting Webber is anything but humanitarian. In fact, it's about as diabolical and arcane as anything you could find in a Lovecraft or Ellison story.
And in-between the two men, interconnecting them in various ways are the cast of characters who will all play their parts in bringing Grey and Webber together, bringing the true motivation and machinations of the Facility to startling, horrific light, and to reveal the most frightening truth of all about the tranquil-appearing little compound - the corner store is not the only thing within "walking distance." So is are the very depths of Hell itself.
As Cole, Everett is everything a Cronenberg fan could wish the controversial Stephen Lack had been in SCANNERS. (And it's safe to say that just as in his previous film, CLOSET SPACE, a strong Cronenbergian vibe runs through every pore of DISTANCE.) And Bannister finds just the right note to make you angry at yourself for having pity on the pitiful, pathetic mess who is Joseph Webber, who comes to realize that not only has he lost control of his impulses to commit his horrible crimes, but also of his very mind, used and manipulated by others for unimaginable evil.
Behind them is a large, dependable cast that includes Melanie Donahoo and James LaMarr (CLOSET SPACE), Shannon Lark (BLOOD BATH 2 Film Festival Best Actor in a Short for LIP STICK), indie horror genre icon Debbie Rochon in one of the most standout roles as Cole Grey's mother, James Furey (KODIE, EXHIBIT 7-A), Katie Featherston (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY) and jaw-dropping performances by character vets Glenn Morshower ("24") and Kathy Lamkin (THE Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake), whom you will never think of in quite the same way again.
It's like a new, sprawling tale by Stephen King with its interwoven plot and character threads (just like those pesky signature House Tentacles!), and all the hints and outright revelations of corporate malfeasance, chemical dumping, mass murder, tele-and-psychokinetic manipulation, intimations here and there of the laws of physics being obliterated, if not outright mutated by pure evil (echoes of Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS, anyone?) But instead of King, Mel House is at the helm this time around, meaning you have no idea where things are going until they get there, and you may have to brace yourself for what you're going to find, since you never know what that might be.
So, in a nutshell, I still recommend WALKING DISTANCE, even if it might be a film that contains too many ideas to absorb in one viewing. The last film I saw that I could say that about was INCEPTION. Which is company I think that Mel should be damn proud he's keeping, especially in a world where intelligent design and rational thought are rapidly being discarded for creationism and a tainted kind of "magical realism." Come to think of it...very much like some of what happens in the movie. What's the frequency, Mel? Are you trying to tell us something?
Review by cchase from the Internet Movie Database.