Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Starring AJ Bowen, Brandon Carroll, Lane Hughes, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg
Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett
There are certain films that just beg for the eternal question to be asked. That question being “Why?” And there are a number of reasons for a reviewer, audience member, or even a fan to ask such a question. In the case of A Horrible Way to Die, the question falls squarely on the shoulders of two people: the director of photography and the director.
The story of A Horrible Way to Die is a fairly easy one to tell, but it’s written in such a way that it has a fresh feel to it. A serial killer escapes from prison, prompting his ex-girlfriend (who turned him in) to panic and freak out a bit. As she’s currently in an Alcoholics Anonymous group, we get to see the stress she’s already under. Add to her list of worries a new boyfriend and strangeness going on at work, and she’s about ready for a long vacation herself. If this sounds a bit like Halloween H20, don’t worry, the similarities in the script stop there.
Before I get to what didn’t work about the film, I’d like to first talk a little bit about what did: the script. While the beginning of the movie may seem like standard slasher fare, the ending is clever, and I liked the direction in which it went. Simon Barrett’s story was a good mix, showing the journey of the killer and the worry of the ex-girlfriend; and it even managed to capture some real emotional content that went beyond screams running.
It’s too bad that the rest of the film was hindered by the camera work and direction. Don’t get me wrong, the actors, what I could see of them, handled their parts with conviction and grace. But that’s the problem. The camera work completely killed the movie. From up-the-nose closeups that zoomed in and out during the scene to the characters not even being in frame for the entirety of the film, the camerawork was so distracting that it was hard to concentrate on anything else. The majority of the movie wasn’t even in focus. Also, fans of the “shakey cam” technique of filmmaking can look to this film as your grail. At no point in the movie was a single tripod, pedestal or track used. The camera spastically jerked all over the place, as if it were being held by a palsy victim. If it was meant to be artistic, it failed in the sense that it denied the audience anything more than glimpses of the actual story because they were so busy trying to figure out what the cameraman was doing.
While I’m sure there was a good movie in there somewhere, the overall impression made it impossible to focus long enough to find it. A Horrible Way to Die was, in fact, a horrible way to spend time in a theater.
1 1/2 out of 5
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