“Is it safe?”

There are only 2 reasons to watch P2.“Thriller” is probably the loosest genre term around because it coexists with horror films (monster, serial killer, psycho), and suspense films with a ‘thrilling’ element; it could be as simple as a courtroom suspenser with a detective’s investigation unearthing strange ties to occult killings, or a family trapped at home while two rich lunatics play psychological and physical games of torment on their victims before knocking them off like flies.

Does a thriller need blood and guts? Not necessarily, but it should contain aspects designed to make an audience squirm a bit, yet feel the need to hang on because the characters and their situations are so intense one has to stick to the very end to find out who lives, who dies, who escapes, who’s arrested, and who gets blown to bits because they damned well deserve it for being so nasty.

That opens the door for conventions, and some are mandatory for the success of a thriller film; if too many are stripped away, reconfigured beyond recognition, or warped in a fashion that shows auteurial contempt towards audiences, the whole exercise could backfire and alienate the actual film and its maker from mainstream and fan viewers, or conversely, elevate the uppity snot into a celebrated auteur whose experimentalism is to be lauded and encouraged.

This weekend we uploaded a quartet of films that deal with people being tormented, but hey, none involve a movie built around the ongoing physical ruin of a person. Well, not quite.

Jack Ketchum’s The Lost (2005) is enjoying a deserved renaissance as Anchor Bay and Starz Home Entertainment give the film a theatrical reissue and a home video debut. Written and directed by Chris Sivertson, The Lost follows a kooky narcissist, Ray Pye, and his pair of long-suffering friends four years after Ray shoots and kills two women like hunting targets. The local beat cop is determined to pin the murders on Pye, and gradually Ray loses control of his idyllic life and explodes in a fit of rage, creating his own Manson-like bloodbath of revenge.

Both the opening girl hunt and finale are violent and graphic, but that’s not what the film is about nor should it be its claim to fame: The Lost deals with self-destructive characters, co-dependent relationships, and the personal activities and relationships various characters are involved in to offset the doses of boredom that are inherent in daily life. Whether it’s fast sex, drugs, murder, lying, or mental cruelty, they’re escapes for several characters, which in Ray’s case are necessary to keep him stable. Take one away, and he starts to lose his cool, his grounding, and eventually his mind.

Storm Warning (2007) offers up two lost vacationers tormented by a trio of island recluses in Australia. The married couple know they’re going to die slowly, so they need to save themselves before rape and torture happen. Written by Everett De Roche (Dark Forces, Patrick, Road Games) and directed/scored/co-edited by Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend), it’s an above-average B-movie that fuses exploitation conventions from nasty seventies thrillers with more contemporary sadism, yet with a bit more psychological depth.

The two victims aren’t all that bright, but as a revenge film goes, it makes some interesting choices and serves up effective trauma, with the wife basically saving her wounded husband and herself from three misogynistic pot growers and their massive Rottie. The filmmakers follow the thriller formula and deliver the violence and brutality fans expect.

Denying audiences gore, and treating a reconfigured thriller as an intellectual experiment of deliberate audience torture is what Michael Haneke’s original 1997 version of Funny Games (Kino) is all about. You see nothing except the effects on the family as two very polite monsters ease their way into the lives of a wealthy family vacationing at their lakeside cottage.

Is it horrific? Dull? Inane? An arrogant exercise showing the filmmaker’s contempt for mainstream audiences? Or a game Haneke offers towards us, inviting us in the games which, just like the family, they can seemingly walk away from early on if they follow the rules. Or maybe not.

Haneke’s 2007 remake with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts seemed to have garnered mixed reviews, and his decision to do a shot-for-shot remake of his own film kind of recalls Gus Van Sant’s 1998 colour version of Psycho; it’s an experiment, but rather pointless since it offers nothing new beyond a contemporary cast, and Dolby 5.1 sound.

On the other hand, when conventions are scribbled down and hastily packed into a generic thriller, the results are sub-par; when the writers don’t think things through, characters do stoopidt things, and the film becomes a work of inanity, audiences are then dragged along, vainly hoping something of note will transcend a work of sheer laziness.

P2 (Seville Canada) has gore, but beyond bits of violence and gratuitous boobery, there’s no other guilty reason to enjoy Franck Khalfoun’s dull attempt at psychological terror (or is it “a new level in terror”). A person trapped in an urban structure isn’t new, but if it’s immediately apparent the killer is a moron, the movie deflates and sputters.

Haneke’s views on writing an effective thriller are quite correct: if you impart your own intelligence (assuming you’re a bright bulb) towards your characters, they become memorable, plausible, and terrifying; that’s what makes the two sociopaths in Funny Games so frightening.

Ketchum’s obsessions with loss and guilt are readily apparent in The Lost, but he also recognizes there are consequences for acts of cruelty: the toll of guilt affects Ray’s friends, and the loss of order within Ray’s world mandates his breakdown. When he goes nutso, we know why, and discreetly sympathize a bit.

Each of the four thrillers takes creative risks – even P2 tries to stretch the suspense within the physical confines of a parking garage – but only one, The Lost, really succeeds in delivering the goods without audience contempt, filmmaker stupidity, or adhering too closely to genre conventions.

Coming next: Traveling to Mars in a nuclear powered chubby bullet.



Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews


Copyright © mondomark