Upstream Color is told in a linear manner but it also loop exchanges, fragment time, get rid of dialogue, and build up its conflicts in a way that feels like stream-of-conscious filmmaking. The plot is not complicated but it is out of the ordinary.
The movie is a sci-fi body horror movie and drama in one. The movie has its own genre, especially the last part. It is like a compelling dream. Its first act is its most coherent one. It features larvae found beneath the soil where orchids are planted. Once the larvae are ingested, they release a mind control substance that takes the will of the victims and turn them into puppets.
A thief (Thiago Martins) discovers the larvae and forces Kris (Amy Seimetz) to eat one. He moves into her house, empties her bank accounts, steals all her properties, and asks her to perform tedious tasks such as transcribing Thoreau’s Walden onto a paper chain.
After weeks of being in the thief’s control, Kris is abandoned to pick up the pieces of her life. She must first remove the full grown worms crawling under her skin. This leads her to the sampler (Andrew Sensenig), who is an audio producer and pig farmer.
The sampler draws larva victims to his farm where he transfers the worms into his pigs. It allows him to sample he lives of those he cured. This leads to Kris’ journey to normalcy as she enters a relationship with Jeff (Shane Carruth), who himself has a secret past.
Upstream Color is a journey that needs to be experienced. On paper, the plot is too strange. It is not a puzzle that needs to be solved. Everything falls right into place in the end. The only bad thing going for the movie is the deadpan performances of the actors. They keep viewers at arm’s length, who are left pondering about Carruth’s ideas.