Saturday, 23 June 2012

Review - A Horrible Way to Die (2010 - Dir. Adam Wingard)

We've had A Lonely Place to Die. Now, we've got A Horrible Way to Die. What's next? An Inconvenient Time to Die? A story about a lad who makes a gorgeous cheese and onion sarnie, accompanied with chips and maybe a sprinkling of cress, but a murderer comes round. "Of all the times to kill me! Can't you give me half an hour to finish my dainty snack?" the lad whines. (If this film ever gets made, I want a writing credit. And some cash.)

I really struggled with this film initially. It's all to do with the style: a camera that is constantly wobbling about a bit and differential focus gone crazy. A severe case of the Boyles, I thought and it was very close to being unwatchable. Things do improve. I was never totally convinced by its use but there are some effective scenes enhanced by the style. A strangling is made more disturbing by the juddering camera moves, better than the rather disappointing offering in Snowtown. At one point the main character's mental state is shown by some severe shakage and loss of focus. Good stuff. When it's used subtly it also works. It became less intrusive as the film went on. Or maybe I was just able to ignore it.

Sarah (Amy Seimetz) and Kevin (Joe Swanberg) are recovering alcoholics - ironically I watched most of this drunk - and they become chums, then get all kissy kissy. It turns out that her ex is a serial killer. Er... see you later, love.

Their relationship was the main thing that kept me going through the first half an hour. The acting is realistic and you especially feel for Sarah. AJ Bowen makes a cracking killer too - I don't know whether he dabbles in his spare time - all lovely and calm and then, WHAM! knife in someone's gut.

It's not a particularly gory film. The worst it gets is a scene inspired by Dario Argento's Opera. It is disturbing though. There is a similar gritty feel and atmosphere to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The score by Quilted Crystal adds immeasurably to this feeling. Another reason why I kept going with it.

The ending is great: true to the theme of the film and what has gone before, a very clever script. It pulled me round and brought the rating up by a good few points. If the style had been toned down in some scenes it would have been higher still. 

The title is misleading but I didn't really mind. What the film delivers is better and more intelligent than the title implies. A much better take on the serial killer genre than the aforementioned Snowtown. Well worth a watch.

If you like this you could also try:
Wolf Creek, Snowtown, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

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