Director/Screenplay/Producer – Pritesh N. Chheda, Photography – John McClung, Music – Mark Daniel Dunnett, Visual Effects – Dogan Can Gundogdu, Michael Lugo & Paul Rennick, Makeup – Hilary Whitworth, Production Design – JuJu Smith. Production Company – Chheda Films
Shayla Bagir (Reagan), Mark Reninga (Ethan), Jacob Bitzer (Cole), Nardeep Khurmi (Justin), Tess Cline (Christie), Brett Bock (Smith), Eric Reniholdt (Dr Kowalski), David Sturgeon (Barber), Don Daro (Trevor), D.J. Morrison (Scar)
A group of four friends are driving along a backroad when they become lost. Distracted as they argue over directions, Justin hits a hitcher on the road ahead and the car crashes into a tree. With the car out of action and no phone signal to call for help, they decide to walk to the nearby town of Emeryville. They meet the town’s strange inhabitants who seem to live in a time warp and claim to have no vehicles. As they become increasingly wound into the town’s happenings, they are hunted by the townspeople. Throughout this, they come to realise that all of the locals are the survivors of experiments conducted on the inmates of an asylum to alter behavioural patterns by erasing their memories.
The Emeryville Experiments was the second directorial outing for Pritesh N. Chheda, an Indian immigrant to the US who had previously debuted with the horror film For Sale By Owner (2006).
I liked the idea that The Emeryville Experiments starts with – a town where all the inhabitants are patients from a lunatic asylum. It sorts of suggests something along the lines of The Crazies (1973) and one of the mass insanity outbreak films that have derived from that or one of the numerous versions of Edgar Allan Poe’s The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Fether (1845).
Alas, Pritesh Chheda’s approach is all but complete amateurism. The film suffers from an ineptitude in almost every single regard. The plot is an incoherent mishmash. There seems no conviction to the dialogue. The acting from the principal actors is unprofessional and frequently seems to be straining in matters like basic everyday conversations. You get the impression that Pritesh Chheda obtained the use of a Western recreation town somewhere and wrote the film accordingly so we rather ludicrously have a Western town that supposedly exists in the 21st Century and the townspeople make a big thing about having no modern conveniences.