ADAM WINGARD IS NOW ON MY WATCH LIST…
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER was the last film that legitimately scared me. That film was so real, so raw. He wasn’t a character that crossed over into fantasy like Freddy or Jason, he wasn’t slowly menacing like Michael Myers, he was the person you cross paths with on the street who doesn’t seem right. He was evil. A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE had the same type of moments as HENRY. It’s not nearly as scary as HENRY but it’s also not trying to be. The characters are some of the most honest that I have seen within a horror film in a few years. This is a very well executed flick, but it’s not without a few minor problems.
A HORRRIBLE WAY TO DIE stars AJ Bowen (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) as Garrick Turrell, a serial killer who has escaped from police custody and has picked up where he left off. One by one he kills as he gets closer to his ex-girlfriend Sarah (Amy Seimetz) who is a recovering alcoholic trying to lay her demons to rest by going to group and finding a new boyfriend she meets while in recovery. Slowly, Sarah begins to realize that Turrell is closer than she would like him to be which leads her past and her hope for the future to collide.
Both stars of the film are incredible. It’s cool to finally see AJ Bowen (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) get a role like this, something meaty that he can really dig into. There are moments in this film, the unsettling moments, when you see Bowen’s character unable to control what he’s doing, sometimes shaking at the aftermath of his actions. That is both fucked up and scary as hell. If I had to put green money on it, I would say Bowen is going to have a huge career.
Unlike Bowen, I had no idea who Amy Seimetz was but she delivers a really moving performance. That feels weird to write in the context of a horror flick, but her character is emotionally stripped down and kind of powerless but smart and brave when she needs to be. Seimetz and Bowen are on another level compared to the rest of the cast.
The film is directed with incredible skill by Adam Wingard (HOME SICK), from a script by Simon Barrett. There is a huge leap in Wingard’s abilities between this and 2004’s POP SKULL, the last film I saw from him. He is much more patient here with his shots and his scenes just feel more organic. The camera occasionally distracts and focuses on random objects in the background but it didn’t take away from the film.
My one problem with this film unfortunately is the ending, which I am not going to give away here obviously, but it completely removed me from the story. It’s tonally off from the rest of the film. Instead of being equally horrific it’s darkly comedic. It actually made me a little pissed at first. You are so invested in the characters you want to see a payoff. It’s just fucking weird to me that it shifts gears like that.
The ending aside (and really it’s the last 5 minutes or so), this is a remarkable film. It’s not one that is going to have a huge re-watch for me, but it’s a huge achievement for Adam Wingard who just became one of my most anticipated directors. It’s also a nice credit for AJ Bowen and Amy Seimetz who both turn in some great performances. This flick has some intense scenes and some real moments of horror which makes for a hell of a thriller.
VERDICT: SEE IT!
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