Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Horrible Way To Die (2010)

Fear 3/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 2/5

A Horrible Way to Die is an interesting character study. Our main characters are a serial killer who's escaped police custody and his girlfriend, a recovering alcoholic who's frailty becomes her own undoing. But before I get into the specifics, based on the title alone and what folks may perceive, there isn't a whole lot of blood and guts here (at least not until the end). This is a film squarely focused on its characters rather than the gore and grue. So if you go in expecting a full on splatterfest, you're going to be severely disappointed.

Still with me? Said serial killer (played by my favorite genre actor working today, AJ Bowen), is introduced at the onset of our film. He's kidnapped a girl and taken her out to the countryside where she is strangled. He takes off in her car and for the vast majority of the rest of the film, we see him as he narrowly escapes being caught by police (which are now involved in an all-out manhunt) and various flashbacks that fill in the pieces from his previous life.

We are then introduced to Sarah, at first a quiet and reserved early 30's woman who's battling a severe addiction to alcohol. It takes awhile for her to get warmed to the idea of revealing details about her life during her AA meetings. Helping to kind of prod her along, is another man in the group which is obviously fond of her. It becomes apparent that she can not take care of herself and she eventually latches on to him.

They then begin to form a relationship and soon gain one another's trust. She tells him about her former boyfriend and how she came to find out who he really was. Before this, in our flashback sequences (the film jumps all over in terms of timelines), we see this normal, everyday couple on display although Sarah is more oftentimes than not, drunk. It's not until Sarah catches her boyfriend wandering out late at night (usually she's passed out, not even knowing that he's gone) that she becomes a little suspicious. One night, she follows him out and stops at a storage unit. What she finds is terrifying and ultimately, she's the one that reveals his dark secret and does him in.

Along his way, our killer can't stop himself from killing, even with the threat of police nearby. Things come to a head when Sarah learns that her coworker is dead and finally catches on to reports of her escaped ex. Her AA friend now turned lover offers a place to stay at his parent's cabin in the woods. She obliges and they both travel out. But we soon learn things are not as they seem and our film does a complete 180 from the course you think it's set for.

As mentioned, the film is a unique character study. Both of our main characters have addictions and the parallels are hard to miss. One is a killer, so compelled by his constant craving of the kill. The other, brought to constant struggle with a need for just one more drink, one more piece of relief. The ending may leave some folks puzzled but I thought it was an interesting twist. Regardless, if you are looking for something different than your average genre fare, you can't go wrong with A Horrible Way to Die.

Cortez the Killer


Eric said...

Acting is an important aspect in making this film so damn good. AJ is one of my genre faves, too... dude killed in The Signal and House of the Devil.

Planet of Terror said...

Eric, I couldn't agree more. I'm dying to see You're Next. I heard he's fantastic in it.

Sir Phobos said...

This is the second positive review I've read for this one, and I need no more convincing. I'll check this one out. I like how both the killer and the victim battle uncontrollable urges.

Emily said...

As you know, I haven't fully made up my mind on this one. The performances were pitch perfect, and I agree that Bowen is a great guy to see in genre film. I think had the shaky cam technique not been used so annoyingly, I could say that I genuinely liked what the filmmakers did but the filming style felt annoyingly pretentious. I loved the structure though, and I'll be thinking about the themes over the next few days...