About a fortnight-halved prior to Tax Day and a stone’s throw from Easter Sunday, audiences all across Los Angeles were hopping off to a groundbreaking, new thriller-to-beat-all-thrillers in the form of the Judy Norton produced and penned Inclusion Criteria. Also starring said writer/producer, the highlight of the film’s unveiling occurred at the Sunday Moving Picture Show (only on a Saturday). Hosted by Nander Entertainment, the star-studded April 7th premiere embodied the precursor to the cinematic work’s official debut April 13th-April 19th. Held at Raleigh Studios’ Charlie Chaplin Theater to standing room only appeal, the audience was awash with everyone from 70s TV Idol, and present-day songbook crooner, Don/Donny Most– aka Ralph Malph of Happy Days’ fame, baddest of bad girls (but probably not any badder than the antagonist in the film) Alison Arngrim aka Nellie Oleson of Little House on the Prairie notoriety, to former Waltons costar Michael Learned, additional Waltons cast mate Eric Scott, to Nancy Cartwright famous voice of a character (probably never acquainted with The Waltons due either to his age/maturity or parallel cartoon universe embodied existence) Bart Simpson, to fellow songbook serenader, the lovely and multi-talented in the most multi-layered of ways, to Laura Pursell, to noted Valley Girl and Emmy nominated Lee Purcell (no relation as you can C), to present day child actors, Nicole Criss and Joey Luthman, to speak nothing of select members of the cast i.e. Lauri Hendler (of Gimme a Break fame, remember her?), Ra Hanna and of course, the Woman of the Hour, Ms. Judy Norton herself!
At the film’s conclusion each guest had their own impression of the tumultuous two hour triumph in trepidation, most of which waxed from captivated to complimentary. According to Lee Purcell, “Inclusion Criteria is a tour de force for writer, producer, star Judy Norton in the tradition of MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. It is a first-class thriller directed tautly by Josh Hodgins, which had me jumping out of my skin over and over!”
Actor/crooner from a much more levitous TV incarnation (than the film in question) could only chime in with the following superlatives: “A very well written, turn twisting script by Judy Norton.”
Fellow songstress and one-woman stage show star Laura Pursell could only add, “What a plot twisting thriller! Very thought-provoking. Honest and moving performance by Judy Norton and I loved Marlene Hamerling’s multilayered comedic turns! I hope there’s a sequel!”
Alison Arngrim, TV character hailing from an equally innocent time but a decidedly less innocent mindset had this to say, “Suspense is one of my favorite genres’ and Inclusion Criteria is a nail biter.” (And when you’ve had a chance to admire Arngrim’s nails and polish jobs as many times the LA Beat, it is an undeniable fact that the aforementioned admission really takes one for the team!
And, last but not least, Walton’s matriarch Michael Learned could only evince the pride one would expect of a delighted albeit jumpy mother: “Judy Norton and cast give wonderful performances. I jumped out of my seat four times!”
Directed by Josh Hodgins, the film’s noteworthy ensemble includes Lauri Hendler, Ra Hanna, Vanessa Leigh, Jewelle Colwell, Richard Anderson, Aaron Bennett, Chase Christensen, Johanna Mills, Marlene Hamerling, Illiana Hodgins, Katie Stone and Judy Norton.
Norton, best known for her role as Mary Ellen on the sentimentally acclaimed The Waltons, was bitten by far more than the acting bug. A burgeoning-to-actualized-to award winning director, producer and writer, this quadruple threat’s clearest of clear complexion belies all the inspirational insect stings to love bugs’ cupid-arrows that have been slung her way throughout the decades!
A far cry from The Waltons’ comparatively quaint ambiance, Inclusion Criteria sets a tone that is decidedly spine tingling to sinister. Centered around a woman named Tara, portrayed by Norton, who may either be crazy or a victim of conspiratorial/manipulative circumstance, the tension surrounding the former, is only heightened by the fact that her, now deceased, mother suffered from mental illness herself. To amplify the confusion and/or coercive vibe, a good cop/bad cop scenario is introduced into the mix and Tara is either lucky or unlucky enough to fall in love with one of them, (but which one truly is good and which one is bad, or are they one in the same?)
A skillful and winning painter who spends the balance of her days alone, she is haunted by her tragic to tumultuous past. To top it all off, it is evident from the film’s outset that she is being watched—but by whom? Upon subsequently witnessing a crime and discovering a bag of cash simultaneously, her relationship with the good cop/bad cop ensues, furthering her circuitous, maze-like experience of ostensible insanity to the tune of mysteriously moving furniture, missing then reappearing possessions, and unidentified blood on her clothes. Incumbent on this discovery, the so-called good cop/paramour sends Tara to therapy. There she obtains a prescription for drugs and a possible diagnosis of mental illness, but insanity is only the beginning (whether the by-product or catalyst) leaving Tara no choice but to discover just how deep the rabbit hole goes…