CIFF Review: LFO: Sounds Like Dark Fun!

LFO - Robert's Basement - 10-05-14

A lonely, sad sack scientist wannabe discovers a combination of very low frequencies that appear to make people extremely suggestible. At first, he uses his discovery to act out his wildest fantasies, but then, as his past catches up with him, he goes farther than even he could have imagined.

LFO is a micro-budgeted, low-fi sci-fi comedy from Sweden’s Antonio Tublen that looks at human nature in a supremely twisted way. It was one of my favorite films at this year’s Calgary International Film Festival.

LFO is coming soon to DVD in North America, courtesy of Dark Sky Films and MPI. Their blurb for the film reads:

Robert (Patrik Karlson, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared), an amateur sound engineer, spends hours in in his basement full of wires and oscillators experimenting with sound waves. After he finds a combination of four frequencies that allows him to hypnotize people, he lures his attractive new neighbors into his house to act as test subjects for his discovery. Under Robert’s control, the oblivious couple is manipulated into increasingly elaborate role-playing games that allow Robert to indulge in his most megalomaniacal fantasies. But when investigations into the suspicious death of his wife threaten to bring an end to his demented operation, Robert must use his scientific breakthrough on a much larger scale in order to continue his warped research.

In the beginning, Robert accidentally discovers a combination of frequencies that allow him the equivalent of a full night’s sleep in only ten minutes. He discusses his discovery with three other researchers online before discovering that his combination of frequencies can be used to hypnotize others – and quickly tries to cover his tracks by telling his fellow researchers that he was mistaken and his research didn’t pan out.

LFO - Linn & Robert - 10-05-14

When he meets his new neighbors, Linn (Johanna Tchig) and Simon (Per Löfberg), he influences Linn to have sex with him and for Simon both not to notice and to perceive him as a good guy. As his fantasies play out, we learn his wife, Clara (Ahnna Rasch), died in a car accident along with their son, Peter (Lukas Loughran) – and among Robert’s fantasies is having Simon and Linn roleplay as his family.

Things begin to go wrong on two fronts: one of Robert’s fellow researchers, Sinus-San (Erik Börén), doesn’t believe his research didn’t pan out and begins to investigate; an investigator from Volvo begins looking into Clara and Peter’s deaths – and doesn’t believe it was an accident.

Each time Robert slips up, he frantically patches together a new scenario, putting his discovery to use in new ways until, finally, he begins to think globally.

LFO is a smart film that takes an interesting premise to its absolute limits. Writer/director Tublen has a wickedly bent sense of humor and takes Robert in unexpected directions – he might be a sad sack, but he is a very intelligent sad sack, and not just a run-of-the-mill megalomaniac.

By focusing on character, Tublen is able to get away with dressing up an aggregation of low tech equipment in Robert’s dark, dingy basement to give the sense of high science.

Once given the nature of Robert’s discovery and amping up the levels of his quiet insanity through visitations by his dead wife and son, Tublen sets up an unthinkable finale that both comes out of left field and makes perfect sense.

The savagery of Tublen’s humor gains weight from his careful casting. Linn is not movie star gorgeous, but a near perfect girl next door; Clara is, as seen from Robert’s point of view, his biggest critic (though she’s actually the last vestiges of his conscience).

LFO is both delightfully silly and darkly nasty. It’s a sci-fi film that provokes as much thought as laughter, and is as chilling as it is funny.

Final Grade: A-