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Captivity (2007)

Captivity (click for larger image)Starring Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gillies, Chrysta Olson, Michael Harney

Directed by Roland Joffé


It’s here at last! After months of self-hype and controversy, Captivity has finally arrived much to the excitement of … no one. Sure, we’ve all heard people talking. The arguments have raged, and even some of horror’s biggest names have recoiled in disgust. And the folks at After Dark Films have eaten it up every step of the way. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Except they forgot one thing: None of this talk was related to the actual fucking movie.

So how does Captivity: The Movie hold up in the end? Here’s a hint: If torture porn isn’t already dead, rest assured it is now.

The flick begins when vacuous celebrity Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert) finds herself drugged at a ritzy Hollywood party. Nothing unusual there, only this time she awakes to find herself imprisoned in the overly elaborate basement cell of a sadistic madman. And, yes, he wants to play a game. In between various physical and psychological tortures, she discovers a fellow prisoner (Daniel Gillies), and the two must combine their nano-brain power to outwit their captor. To make matters worse, they’re slowly breathing in toxic gas that will kill them in 24 hours, so it’s up to Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) to battle his way through Los Angeles and use his own brand of torture to save the day.

Okay, I made that last part up. But when you’re forced to sit through something this dull, you have to use your own imagination to compensate.

Captivity(click for larger image)In case you’ve been living under a rock, Captivity sparked a media firestorm when the folks at After Dark deliberately printed disturbing billboards of torture and death after the ads were rejected by the MPAA. Oooh, rebellion. But instead of sticking to his guns, ADF honcho Courtney Solomon played dumb and cooked up an excuse about “a printing mishap” that went over about as well as a fart in church. This brought about another round of the tired torture porn/moral decency debate, only this tactless stunt gave all the ammo to horror’s detractors (we’ll no doubt see some self-congratulatory extra called The Captivity Controversy on DVD). Who cares about disgracing the genre and empowering its enemies if you rake in the grosses, right?

There’s a reason After Dark resorted to this pathetic controversy digging: It’s the only way to get people to see this piece of shit. In reality, Captivity is about as riveting as watching Paris Hilton serve her jail sentence. Nowhere near as shocking as its promotional campaign, this formulaic Saw-clone (with a plot stolen from The Collector) is as safe and conventional as they come; a movie-*ahem*-product made for one reason and one reason only: to cash in on a craze. But with the over-exposure of torture films and the box-office failure of (the far-superior) Hostel: Part II, there’s no craze left to greet it.

To add insult to injury, Captivity boasts some great behind-the-scenes talent, namely Academy Award nominated director Roland (The Killing Fields) Joffé, legendary writer Larry Cohen, and cinematographer Daniel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Pearl. How something this bad could come from this team is downright perplexing, but here’s one possible explanation: The film was deemed “too soft” and underwent extensive reshoots under the, uh, direction of Solomon, who previously helmed cinematic turds Dungeons & Dragons and An American Haunting. Let me repeat that: An acclaimed Academy Award nominee had his movie finished by the guy who turned Jeremy Irons into a laughing stock. Imagine if John Carpenter (and we’re talking about the current worn-out Carpenter) handed his film off to Uwe Boll, and you have a pretty good idea of what this train-wreck is like. Of course, it’s easy to play the blame game. It probably took everyone working together to fuck this up.

Captivity(click for larger image)The tacked-on scenes of grisly torture are like something lifted from the imagination of a junior high school dimwit who loves Argento movies. Case in point, there’s a scene where the black-gloved maniac makes a milkshake from human body parts and funnels it down Cuthbert’s throat. It’s not disturbing, it’s not repulsive … it’s just laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Perhaps the Captivity crew has a wonderful future with Troma, but then again, these guys can’t even do exploitation right. Why toss in a gratuitous sex scene for Elisha Cuthbert without a hint of nudity?

Of course, raining nipples couldn’t even save this film. Captivity is nothing more than a black hole of creativity, devoid of all suspense or originality. And like all bad imitators, it throws in plenty of “shocking” third act twists, none of which will surprise anyone who’s seen a movie in the last twenty years. It’s hard to believe our beloved genre took such a blow over something as insignificant as this shit pickle. As is, Captivity is too silly to be disturbing, too serious to be fun, and too conventional to be dangerous.

Those praying for the death of torture porn can finally rejoice: Captivity not only hammers the final nail, it also buries the casket and pisses on the soil.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.