Not to be confused with the forthcoming Matthew Perry comedy of the same name, Numb was released in 2003 to a presumably limited number of theaters, and is just now arriving on DVD from Heretic Films. This certainly isn't the sort of film you're likely to find playing down at the local multiplex, but it's probably the most challenging film I've watched for the Killer B's on DVD featurette. The qualifications for what makes a film a B-movie are rather broad, encompassing many genres and styles of filmmaking. If I had to assign a genre to this one, it would be art house science fiction. Numb unfolds at its own pace, and there is little exposition until fairly late in the film. Scenes are presented in a not-quite random order, and are often revisited in greater detail later on once the viewer has been given the background to fully understand the scene. The first third of the film was confusing yet fascinating, and I was pulled in even deeper once the seemingly disjointed images coalesced into a coherent story.
Shot on 35 millimeter film in glorious black and white except for a series of flashbacks in harsh over-saturated color that was shot on mini DV, Numb postulates a bleak future for humanity. Almost everyone is hooked on an I.V. drug known only as The Drip, addiction to which is instantaneous and all consuming. So pervasive is the drug that it can be bought at the pump while you're filling up your car's gas tank. The story is seen from the point of view of a woman named Claire (Jennifer West Savitch) who is seemingly the only person in the entire world not using The Drip.
Claire is searching for her father, and her former lover Tobias points her to a man named Miles (Dominik Overstreet) who can help in her search. Miles lives in Yerba City, an institution in which Drip addicts are cared for by beings called angels, artificially created humanoids built on the template of an actual person who dies in the process of creating one of these beings. "They're so desperate for immortality that they're willing to die to achieve it," says Miles. Like Claire, Miles does not use The Drip, but for a different reason; he's been genetically altered so he can't become addicted. Miles gets his kicks "the old fashioned way," as one Drip addict puts it, having sex with both catatonic Drip addicts and the almost other-worldly angels, trying to maintain his humanity through intercourse with beings who are barely human themselves. Tobias warns Claire not to trust Miles since, as he puts it, "The only sane person in a loony bin doesn't stay sane for very long." That turns out to be good advice. Miles does help Claire look for her father, but he's got an agenda of his own.
Numb is an amazing head trip of a film. Early on it recalls films like Donnie Darko or the works of David Lynch by being utterly confusing while still holding the viewer's attention, and if you're looking for something fresh and unique I highly recommend it. Given the trippy nature of the flick, a second viewing is almost mandatory in order to put all the pieces together. I also suggest listening to writer/director Michael Ferris Gibson's audio commentary. About ten years passed between the beginning of production and the DVD release, and Gibson provides some interesting background, like how the black and white footage was shot in 1996 with the color flashbacks being shot several years later, and how both of the film's leads have retired from acting, despite being quite good. Other extras include three deleted scenes, as well as trailers for other DVDs from Heretic Films, a label I have come to rely on for interesting indie releases.