Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Marc Blucas, Justine Waddell, Laura Jordan, Priscilla Barnes, Tom Bower, Bill Moseley
Directed by Robby Henson
If there is any one scene that best sums up Thr3e in a nutshell it would be early in when theology major Kevin Parson gets his second threatening phone call from the mysterious, mad bomber serial killer dubbed “The Riddle Killer” who this time tells him that he has 60 minutes to return to his childhood home in order to save his old dog from an explosive death. Parson arrives at his aunt’s house and is immediately greeted by a 350-pound retard with a Moe Howard haircut, followed by the introduction of his crazy aunt who looks like Nora Desmond reliving her prom night – too much make-up and a tiara to boot – and his gibberish-spouting uncle in a Shriners hat. And then the doghouse exploded and I damn near fell out of my seat laughing hysterically.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of Thr3e, the first movie from Fox Faith Films, the new movie wing of 20th Century Fox targeting Christian audiences. That’s right, folks; Thr3e is a serial killer movie – a Christian serial killer movie. What does that mean exactly? It means there are only two dead bodies (one of which was a dog), no profanity, no sex, and a religious message tacked onto the last two minutes of the film that wouldn’t have felt anymore hollow if it had turned into an invisible Kevin Bacon, snuck into my apartment, and raped me.
Thr3e is based on a novel by popular Christian evangelical writer Ted Dekker. Having not read any of his work, I’m going to assume that the book is vastly superior to the movie because if it isn’t then I’d love to know what in God’s name possessed anyone to make it into a film. I can’t imagine a movie this terrible appealing to anyone, Christian or secular, unless they’re into awful movies chock full of constant moments of laugh-out-loud badness.
Thr3e basically has two modes: boring mode and stupid mode. The film is only 108 minutes long, but I swear there are periods where it felt like it might as well have been 308. But don’t worry because as soon as you start getting bored you’ll suddenly be stupefied back into the movie. There are the moments of such mind-blowing stupidity that will leave you dumbstruck. You have this serial killer thriller with a preposterous plot that is often badly acted and flatly directed and loaded with stuff so idiotic your jaw will drop. Heck, you’ll get plenty of laughs just from the scene where one of the bombs blows a big CGI hole in a wall that sends CGI bricks flying out in such a manner you’ll be waiting for a CGI Kool-Aid Man to pop out. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Thr3e opens with a police psychologist Jennifer Peters being run ragged by the “Riddle Killer” in order to rescue her brother. The Riddle Killer uses a voice disguiser that makes him sound like Jigsaw from the Saw movies and he taunts people with riddles worthy of a certain Batman villain. The Riddle Killer is pissed at Peters because of something she wrote in a book that he took issue with. To be honest, I never understood what exactly she wrote that so angered him, not that it really matters all that much anyway since little in this movie will make sense. What does matter is that Peters has to solve a couple of riddles in order to find clues to the whereabouts of her brother. I guess nobody on the street ever bothered to look into that empty store window in which they’d have seen a young man duct taped into a Volkswagen Beetle with a bomb attached to the steering wheel. Peters will not succeed in saving her brother, but I was far less interested in the fate of her brother than I was in wanting to know how this bomb exploded while she had her arms through the window of the car trying to free him and yet her the only injuries she suffered required her to bandage her hands up like she’s about to have old school taped fight match with Terry Funk. I’m surprised her brother didn’t survive seeing as this bomb going off did nothing more than give her some minor burns on her hands. Her brother is also the only person in the movie that did fall victim to one of the Riddle Killer’s easily avoidable time bombs.
Police psychologist Jennifer Peters is supposed to be this brilliant, hard-nosed woman now obsessed with catching her brother’s killer, but Justine Waddell totally bombs in the role. She plays the part with all the edge of a secretary trying to feign toughness when she confronts her boss for a pay raise.
We’re then introduced to Kevin Parson, a morose young man living off his late parents’ insurance money, and given the size of the loft he lives in, that must have been one hell of an insurance policy they had. Kevin’s a full-time student working on his doctorate in theology by – what a coincidence – writing a thesis about the nature of evil. Almost immediately, he gets a call from the Riddle Killer, who proceeds to brow beat him about needing to confess some great sin from his past and then tossing out a riddle he has to solve or his car will explode. The Riddle Killer will continue targeting Kevin, demanding a confession for this past sin and insisting that he not involve the police or else, although the cops will indeed get involved, particularly a certain police psychologist. Kevin will also receive assistance from an old childhood friend turned potential adult love interest, Samantha, the world’s hottest insurance investigator. Samantha actually does more to help Kevin’s cause than Peters will, further making this police psychologist character feel like an extraneous addition.
It’ll soon be revealed that Kevin is harboring a dark secret that’s led to years of a guilty conscious. An unknown neighborhood hoodlum he caught peeping through Samantha’s window threatened to kill him if he told anyone, which he did, leading to a chase into an old abandoned warehouse where Kevin locked the kid in and left him to die, never telling anyone. Could it be that sociopathic youth escaped and grew up to become the Riddle Killer that’s now suddenly seeking revenge against Kevin?
Or does the truth lie with the abusive aunt Kevin was sent to live with after his parents were killed in that car accident? Everything involving his crazy aunt and uncle and their mentally handicapped adult son feels like something straight out of an entirely different movie. You got Priscilla Barnes doing some of the worst overacting I’ve ever seen playing the tyrannical, tiara-wearing matriarch of this lunatic family unit that seems to be about one killing spree away from turning into the Firefly Clan. She’s been keeping everyone cooped up in the house in order to shun the outside world that she perceives to be too wicked and dangerous, going so far as to pretend that it’s an earlier decade and Eisenhower is still President. If they go out of their way to keep themselves isolated from the outside world and its wicked modern ways then who the hell went out and bought the mentally challenged son that Nintendo Gameboy he’s always carrying around?
And how does the Riddle Killer set out to torment Kevin, aside from blowing up his dog? How about strapping a time bomb to one of his friends that can only be removed if they punch in the numerical code that corresponds to the biblical verse etched into the guy’s forehead? Perhaps by donning a mask made of masking tape, recording video message set to be broadcast on a TV left in Kevin’s refrigerator, and rigging it too to explode? Or maybe the Riddle Killer will achieve ultimate vengeance by sneaking a bunch of humongous fans in Kevin’s apartment, opening the windows, and setting it to blow the pages of his thesis all over the place? Let’s not forget when he phones Kevin with an impossibly obtuse riddle that Samantha instantly solves, leading the two of them racing down the street to rescue the people from the number three bus before it blow up.
Are you scared yet? No, not Kevin or Samantha or Jennifer; I’m talking about you, the audience. Are you trembling with fear? Are you on the edge of your seat? Are you biting your nails? Me neither. How lacking in suspense is Thr3e? People, the remake of When a Stranger Calls was a well made scarefest compared to this. The only thing even remotely suspenseful about Thr3e stems from wondering what act of stupidity will happen next and how much longer the movie has to go before it’s finally over. You’ll also be wondering just how many more scenes can director Robby Henson end with a fade out; that seemed to be his favorite technique.
The title Thr3e, which the studio marketers have spelled in such a manner as to invoke memories of a certain other religious-themed serial killer movie entitled Se7en, a movie so superior that Thr3e isn’t even worthy of having its head chopped off and delivered by FedEx to Brad Pitt, seems to derive from the Riddle Killer’s liking for the number three. I think. The movie unfolds over a course of three days and a couple of the riddles involve the number three, but not everything is three related. Late in the film the police psychologist will unravel a clue and say something along the lines of, “None of this makes any sense.” I wanted to yell back at the screen, “Preach on, sister!”
But nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for the big third act twist. Folks, I freely admit I’m a guy prone to hyperbole, but in this instance I beg of you to believe me when I tell you that Thr3e has the single most preposterous, improbable, implausible, (insert similar adjectives here) third act plot twist I have ever seen in a motion picture that was meant to be taken seriously. This plot twist is the sort of thing that a show like “Family Guy”, “South Park”, or “The Simpsons” would do as a parody, but Thr3e plays it straight as a shocking finale that’s designed to leave you speechless. Well, it did leave me speechless, just not for the reasons they were going for. There’s even a second little twist after the big one that makes the finale doubly unbelievable. I’d spoil the plot twist here and go into just how nonsensical it was but I’d rather leave that as an extra little surprise for those that do dare to sit through this thing. Be warned; if your mind possesses an internal bullshit detector like mine does there’s a very good chance it could short circuit and explode like one of the Riddle Killer’s bombing.
Up until this finale, Marc Blucas had at least seemed poised to escape this debacle with his dignity intact. Oh well, the staggering stupidity of the finale that hinges on him being able to sell it (God bless him; he tries) leaves him more than a little looking ridiculous. It’s actually the perfect exclamation point for this asinine movie. At least Blucas can seek comfort in knowing he’s just continuing the tradition of what I call “The Buffy Curse.” Ever notice that horror/thrillers starring former cast members of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” turn out to be consistently awful? At least Thr3e provided some serious laughs to go along with the boring stretches and consistent awfulness.
This is a Christian movie that’s likely to have you paying more lip service to the Devil than to God. I know I sat there in my seat throughout this film constantly muttering, “What the hell?” But if the Academy Awards ever create a special Oscar for Best Christian Serial Killer Movie Featuring Both an Exploding Doghouse and an Exploding Refrigerator then Thr3e will indeed be glory bound.
1 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Thr3e in our forums!