Monday, April 16, 2018

A Horrible Way To Die (2010)

Gorgeous poster alert!

Coming before the big hitters for which they've become known (You're Next, The Guest, Blair Witch) A Horrible Way To Die is a sombre - apparently the term "mumblegore" is a thing now? - effort from director and writer team Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett.

We meet our two leads: Sarah (Amy Seimetz) a recovering alcoholic haunted by guilt because of her past, and Garrick (AJ Bowen), an escaped prisoner who can't stop killing. He's also Sarah's ex boyfriend.

Unfolding in a non-linear fashion, we slowly learn the details of their relationship and their lives in the present day. Sarah is extremely fragile, she's managing to hold down a job, attending group therapy and very tentatively embarking on a new relationship. Garrick is travelling, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake - the blurb for the movie states that he's on his way to find Sarah, but I don't recall that being made explicitly clear in the film itself - nevertheless, there's a sense of build up. Garrick is in motion and Sarah appears to be healing... so it's only natural that these two damaged individuals are going to cross paths again by the end of runtime.

The whys and the hows would be giving too much away though ;)

The power of A Horrible Way To Die lies in how intimate it feels. Seimetz and Bowen are shot in close-up a lot of the time, and we feel like we're sitting right there with them in hotel rooms, at work, or in diners. Everything is slow and considered, with scenes lingering a couple of beats before fading out. The scene transitions themselves were something that struck me as contemplative: fading to black, going out of focus or panning away from the actors, letting the prior action really sink in.

Both leads give restrained, impressive performances of anguished vulnerability, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of their work in the future. (AJ Bowen seems to be a Wingard/Barret regular to some degree, having starred in You're Next and The Guest).

As the "mumblegore" label may suggest, this is a carefully constructed slow burn of a horror. This is the story of people stuck in a reality that is painful to them - one of whom happens to be a serial killer. The chills and unease come from witnessing them negotiating a life that is a constant struggle to exist in. I found this tale to be dark and sad, but completely engrossing and unpredictable.

This is streaming on Shudder right now, and whether you are a Wingard die-hard or not, I highly recommend it. However, there's a lot of "shaky-cam" on display, so if you're prone to movie-induced seasickness, you have been warned!

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