Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boston Underground Film Festival 2011 Day 5: A Horrible Way to Die

My plans for BUFF were rearranged a little over the weekend - Monday was going to be a two-movie night, Luster and Twilight People, but I opted out of The Woman on Friday night (combination of a tight window, a sold out show, and not being particularly fond of Lucky McKee), and then opted for Luster over Horrible on Saturday. Based on their listing in the program, I thought that it would be in the same theater as Cold Fish and Helldriver - the ones I really wanted to see - and the best way of making sure that your film festival schedule doesn't get screwed over is to stay in one theater all day. Turned out not to be the case, and I was sweating more than a bit as Luster's projection problems closed the gap between showtimes.

It was a good thing I did, at least in terms of seeing as many movies as I could, as Monday turned out to be one of those days at work, the sort that keep you in an office out in Burlington until 7:30, torpedoing any chance of seeing a show in the early-evening slot. It did leave me with a little time to get dinner, though, and The Friendly Toast was pretty ideal at 8:30, especially after a few days of subsisting on nachos and microwaved hot dogs. The lessons for the film-festival-goer here? (1) Getting one night of decent food is awesome mid-fest, (2) always see the stuff you really want to the first opportunity you can, because stuff comes up, and (3) I think I'll just work from home the entire week of IFFBoston and avoid any T-related anxiety.

As to this movie itself, I'm kind of surprised that the review I wrote is so positive, all things considered. I'm not kidding about Wingard and company spending too much time futzing with the camera; I found myself grinding my teeth and really just hating the experience of watching A Horrible Way to Die, almost entirely for the pretentious, frequently out-of-focus cinematography (I think there was some horrible shaky-cam action in there as well, but I'm not sure).

I half-wonder if this would have been a completely different review if I had been able to write it closer to the actual screening, when the bile from staying late at work and getting to the theater only to see this blurry thing was fresh. Heck, I might not have seen the parallels between the characters' addictions otherwise, or not found them compelling enough if that was still fresh in my head.

(And, yeah, it bugged me this much. If I sound like a broken record now, imagine just how frustrated I was while the movie was actually unspooling!)

A Horrible Way to Die

* * * (out of four)
Seen 28 March 2011 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (Boston Underground Film Festival 2011)

I don't want genre filmmaking to become a paint-by-numbers affair, where we as an audience rejoice at basic competence and filmmakers strive to replicate a winning formula. Crime, horror, and the like can be innovative and done with artistry, not just a bit a flourish. That said, I spent a lot of time during A Horrible Way to Die wishing that director Adam Wingard would stop screwing around with the damn camera and trust in a good story and cast.

Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is starting to get her life turned around in a new town. She's not outgoing, but gets on well enough with the staff of the diner where she works as a waitress. She's committed but reticent in the AA meetings she attends, where she meets Kevin (Joe Swanberg), a nice, good-looking guy who offers a ride home and would like to see her again. As that relationship is starting, serial killer Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen) escapes from prison and starts making his way across the country, blazing a trail of blood in Sarah's general direction.

As Wingard and writer Simon Barrett start mixing in flashbacks, the connection between the two threads soon becomes clear, but the film is not entirely about Sarah's past coming back to haunt her. A Horrible Way to Die is also about addiction and compulsion; just as Sarah and Kevin find themselves joking (but also dead serious) about how the Italian restaurant where they meet for their first date is perhaps a bad idea when they see the walls almost completely covered with wine bottles, Garrick can't seem to resist when an opportunity to kill is placed in front of him. He's not outwardly a maniac, but like an alcoholic, he murders without taking any real pleasure in it, no matter how many lives he literally destroys.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

post production melbourne said...

Underground films can cover special needs from different people,even though some of us may feel horrible and hard to accept.