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September 17, 2011

Movie Review: A Horrible Way to Die (2011)

The psycho-thriller has been really pretty hit and miss these days. There are some solid titles out there such as Bereavement and Simon Rumley's excellent Red White and Blue. Unfortunately, for every Red White and Blue you get a much more of the routine camcorder tripe. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barret attempt to be among the latter with the downbeat horror feature, A Horrible Way to Die.

Following a suitably spine-chilling opening sequence, A Horrible Way to Die goes on to introduce the main characters while their participating in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The lead character, Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is a broken-down and scarred addict, looking for answers that don't come at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey. She meets a Kevin (Joe Swanberg) at one of her meetings and soon become fast friends.

Sarah has a lot of baggage though, more so than even I have encounterd in my frequently scary dating life - her ex is a convicted serial killer (AJ Bowen - The House Of The Devil, Hatchet II). Garrick Turrell is as heartless as any serial killer put on film. He won't bathe in your guts but he also won't hesitate in cutting your throat then later chopping your limbs. The best thing with Turrell is that he's not a cliché and comes off very real. Bowen's performance as this quiet monster is really pretty superb. It almost feels like he's channeling Michael Rooker from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to bring Turrell to life. Don't fuck with the silent type.

Barret's penned a solid script here that utilises some of the current trends in society (like the internet and Facebook). I also like Wingard's choice of shots. For much of the film it produces an unsettling documentary-type feel. A Horrible Way to Die has a very unique look and style of editing that separates it from pack too. Although, I wasn't fond of the occasionally annoying "shaky cam" the presentation is undoubtedly very creepy. The performance of Joe Swanberg as Kevin was a bit a sore point. I think he forgot that he was in a horror film. Maybe a romantic comedy would be more his speed, as an extra. He just seemed out of place especially as one of the main players. This doesn't in anyway take away from Bowen's brilliance as Turrell but it wasn't easy for me not to notice. As a whole the actors do a fine job for an indie production.

Anchor Bay has included a featurette on the making of A Horrible Way to Die and a commentary with the filmmakers as extra features. Both are worth a look if you enjoyed the film. Overall there's a good film here even with a few of its hiccups. I look forward to more projects from Wingard, Barret and Bowen.

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