Is Kaleidoscope a modern-day Psycho?


Director: Rupert Jones

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 100 minutes

Cast: Toby Jones, Anne Reid, Sinead Matthews, Cecilia Noble andKarl Johnson.


A psychological thriller about the destructive relationship between a middle-aged man and his mother.


Rupert Jones’ Kaleidoscope is a dark and twisted psychological thriller that delves into the psyche of its fragile protagonist Carl (Toby Jones), a man struggling to rebuild his life on a London housing estate after a spell in prison.

There’s a definite hint of Norman Bates about Jones’ portrayal of Carl, a man who’s clearly damaged from a destructive relationship he’s endured at the hands of his mother. Whilst preparing for his first date in nearly 15 years he receives an unwelcome phone call from his mother announcing an impending visit.

This unleashes a wave of painful memories for Carl as his past and present begin to collide and his grip on reality begins to violently spiral out of control. When police discover a woman’s dismembered body near his housing estate Carl begins to question whether he murdered his female companion the night before whilst in the fits of a drunken alcohol-filled rage.

As you’d expect Jones gives a fantastic central performances, it’s hard not to feel sorry his character Carl he’s a man so intrinsically damaged by his relationship with his mother that he’d consider a meeting with women from a swinging website as a proper date. He’s clearly carrying considerable emotional baggage from this abusive relationship with his mother and even now as a middle-aged man those scars on his fragile psyche have never fully healed.

Jones’ performance is matched by Anne Reid’s; her portrayal of Carl’s mother oozes insidious menace. Despite her sickly sweet demeanour she’s able to manipulate her son with relative ease. She’s an overbearing presence in Carl’s life and an unwelcome visitor at a time when he’s trying to move on in his life.

Kaleidoscope is a wonderfully atmospheric feature,it’s dark and moody and boasts accomplished visuals  which are accompanied by Mike Preswood Smith’s fantastically eerie score. The repeated shots of a spiral staircase on Carl’s housing estate feel like a deliberate call-back to early Hitchcock and there’s a definite Lynchian sense about proceedings, as not everything that occurs onscreen may not be as it seems.

Told in a fragmented, non-linear way, viewers are left to make up their own mind on what has actually happened; Some may find this ambiguous approach intriguing, perplexing or even downright annoying, but Rupert Jones chooses not to give us all the answers. Is Carl capable of Murder and if so who did he kill?

I’ve got to admit I found the film a tad underwhelming , it’s first half is all atmosphere as the tension levels begins to rise, but once it enters the latter stages it never really resolves itself in a satisfactory manner: becoming less of a who done it, but more so, a who was it.

I’ve drawn my own conclusions from watching the film, but I won’t reveal them here in case they might be too spoilery, but needless to say the ambiguous nature of the narrative means it’s a film that’s open to several interpretations.


Like Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio, Kaleidoscope is a film that’s all about the atmosphere and tension, ultimately its less than the sum of all its parts, but it’s still a film that has interesting things to say about the cause and effect of violence! Must a perpetrator first be a victim?

Written by Jim McClean @legacurrylad
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