Near Detroit, a monstrous serial killer has chosen his victims. Each have one thing in common: every target is being consumed by their own greed and immorality. A story of dehumanization in American culture (as well as other places) and the abandon of traditional values accompanying the wish to satisfy the longing that said depletion of identity causes.
The movie opens to a chillingly empty street in a suburb close to Detroit, where leafless trees hang down over the slightly frosted ground. The once-blue sky has been completely blocked out by gray clouds. Each house that lines the desolate street bears some resemblance to the one next to it; the whole street conveys a type of conformity, and safety in that conformity.
AUSTIN HENDERSON, a good-looking, well-built man around the age of 36, walks directly down the middle of the street with is hands deep in his pockets (a book is clenched in-between his side and his arm). His mouth forms intelligible words, curiosity-triggering words, as he travels. The suburbs pass quickly as he picks up pace, every once in a while checking his watch and observing his surroundings.
Though Austin is talking to himself, it is not in a childish nor repulsive manner; he does it in an innocent way, an almost endearing way. He seems almost incapable of speaking, though he wants to speak--the unspoken tragedy of the suburbs themselves.
Austin eventually reaches a small park and sits on a bench directly in front of the play equipment. The book he was carrying is immediately placed in his lap as he feigns reading, but really watches for passers-by.
After a few seconds of Austin's casually glancing around, HELEN THOMPSON, a grad student around the age of 23 (also good-looking, but so painfully average), walks by holding a few books from her classes. Austin eagerly raises his hand in a type of subtle wave after pretending to be distracted from his studies; Helen, as though used to it, raises back. She attempts to walk past, but Austin calls out to her:
Helen slows down, warily looking at him through the corner of her eye, then finally stops and turns.
Austin stands, awkwardly and slowly; almost too awkward to watch. As he approaches the student, he holds up his book--The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (a popular book by Michael Nyman, describing the cases of his clients; a collection of neurological studies).
AUSTIN: I noticed--you're reading the same thing as I am.
Helen does a double take from his book to hers, then gives him a polite half-smile.
HELEN: Yes, it's for class.
AUSTIN, inching closer: What are you studying in this class?
HELEN: Psychology--well, neurology, really, but I hope to deal with emotional disorders rather than physical.
AUSTIN: You want to be a psychologist?
Helen simply half-shrugs.
AUSTIN, trying to carry on the conversation: And...where do you study this?
HELEN, avoiding the question: Just a nearby university.
AUSTIN, now very close to her, entering her personal space: Which university? You must know, many are--
HELEN, uncomfortably: You know, speaking of, I'd better get back to class. Professor is waiting.
AUSTIN: You--he stops himself as her eyelids flutter; she's trying to keep her eyes downcast as she avoids eye contact. Alright.
HELEN, under her breath as she walks: I suppose I'll see you tomorrow.
AUSTIN, staring longingly after her, drawing his word out: Yess.