I’m frequently amazed by just how much indie filmmakers can achieve on a minimal budget. But sometimes, as with the recently reviewed Wolf, they bite off more than their resources can chew. Matthew Ninaber runs into the same problem with Transference. Trying to do an X Men type film on a budget of under $200,000 is pretty near impossible. Of course, the fact that the script is a jumbled mess doesn’t help either.
Joshua (Jeremy Ninaber) has been the protector of his twin sister Emma (Melissa Joy Boerger) since their father was killed in a car accident when they were twelve. She has some fairly impressive psychic powers. So impressive that when she lost control of them after an overdose they caused 120 people to try to slit their wrists.
Since then he’s kept her in a psych facility on an involuntary basis. He earns the money for this fighting in underground bare-knuckle brawls. It seems he has powers of his own. He can shrug off any damage an opponent does to him. He hasn’t hidden her as well as he thought though. A mysterious figure with his own agenda and powers is stalking them.
I had a very hard time getting into Transference. The script is so jumbled and poorly constructed it’s hard to tell what’s going on at any point in the film. The fact the film almost randomly goes from here and now to flashback to hallucination doesn’t help.
The lack of sympathetic leads just adds to this. Emma spends much of the film either medicated into a zombie-like state or screaming her way through an episode. Joshua is supposed to be an antihero along the lines of Wolverine, (minus the claws). But he just comes off as an annoying borderline psychopath.
Transference repeatedly paints itself into corners and needs info dumps to clue the viewer in. At one point a character stumbles into another character’s landlord in the middle of the night in the woods. They just happen to start talking about an underground bunker on the property.
Given the film’s budget, I wasn’t expecting Marvel-style displays of mass destruction. But since Transference feels like the origin story for what’s meant to be a franchise I was expecting more than the odd person tossed around. Or somebody shake off a few blows in very poorly choreographed fights.
Doing a comic book film on a low budget is a daunting task. Especially now that major studios have turned them into epics. But it can be done, Valentine: The Dark Avenger is one example. Doctor Mordrid and Kick-Ass are two others. Transference isn’t.