Afred Hitchcock meets Night Gallery/The Twilight Zone,
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This review is from: Oktober (DVD)
This is a made-for-TV movie from 1998 and to some extent it shows with its film quality and 1:33 ratio. It's not high-end or lavished with exciting locales (although the Swiss Alps are rather spectacular), but it is a straight-forward movie that delivers as promised. Like Hitchcock's North By Northwest, you have a main character Jim Harper (played by every-man actor Stephen Tompkinson), who gets unwittingly and unwillingly caught up in a pharmaceutical company's illegal drug research. There's nothing particularly special about Harper. He's the kind of person who would so strike you as you would easily overlook him in a crowd. I'm not even sure I'd call him naÔve, but rather more like just bland. Then if you add in some paranormal stuff, surrealistic nightmares, and vague conversations with dead people, you'd have the Night Gallery/Twilight Zone component. Or maybe even Tales of the Unexpected even.
I believe Tompkinson does a great job of making you care about Jim Harper. You see Jim slowly metamorphose into a seasoned individual. I think it's great skill for an actor to evolve subtleties in a character without changing the overall essence of the character. Some of the other actors do seem like cardboard characters, but somehow I don't particularly mind that so much in this film as I think the film has a campy sort of feel to it anyway. It all actually seems to make the film work and gives it this weird kind of dark vibe all way round.
As to how the movie compares to the book, well, the author also wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. I read the book after having watched the film. There were some parts pulled straight from the book and also some major changes to the film adaptation. I'm mostly in agreement with the changes as I don't see how filming the book in its entirety would have benefited the film, but that's just me. I've also re-watched the film and reread the book. I find that both book and film taken together give a complete picture of Jim Harper and the Oktober Project. I also believe that both stand well as separate mediums.
I don't think it's five stars, but I like the film way more than four stars so I erred on the plus side. Be forewarned though, FYI there are no subtitles for those who have difficulty navigating British accents and may need to rely upon them. They don't exist here.