Stalk Till You Drop
There's a difference between movies like Saw, which eke out some compelling themes amid all the bloodletting, and Captivity, another "torture porn" film that gets nasty for the sake of being nasty and is little more than a derivative surfer riding the wave of another horror flick's success. Of course, whether films like these are scary or merely disgusting remains open to debate.
Captivity opens as a cloaked killer does in his latest victim in a particularly gruesome way. It's not long before he's itching to put someone else on the chopping block, and his eyes soon set on an attractive and prominent model named Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert). After slipping a drug into her drink at a club, the mad killer hauls Jennifer off to his house of horrors, imprisoning her in a room and subjecting her to all manner of cringe-inducing torture. Eventually, Jennifer finds that her captor also has another prisoner, Gary (Daniel Gillies). Bonding quickly with Gary, she helps him race to find a way to escape or -- at least -- to play the killer's twisted game long enough to see the light of day.
You know when you're not really mad at someone, you're just disappointed and somehow that's worse than being angry with them? High Tension made me feel like that two years ago, and Captivity has the same effect on me now. This movie's entire cast and crew seems comprised of people who should've known better than to make a paint-by-numbers gorefest like this. Take director Roland Joffe, for example. Back in the 1980s, you would've thought the man was destined for filmmaking legend status, with the highly acclaimed dramas The Killing Fields and The Mission under his belt. It's a crushing disappointment to see Joffe taking on a rather grimy and simplistic horror flick with as little flair as possible. Then there's co-writer Larry Cohen, who's no stranger to horror (with such illustrious titles as The Stuff and Q: The Winged Serpent to his credit), but even he and fellow writer Joseph Tura seem absolutely bored, setting the story on autopilot and letting whatever happens in the plot happen without the slightest bit of care.
No wonder Captivity comes across as lazy and unconstructive, frequently ignoring plot holes, overlooking dumb character behavior (leading to what's probably cinema's most random love scene ever), and never doing more with the story than making sure paying customers don't fall asleep in their seats. The movie, a barren wasteland in terms of a compelling plot or absorbing characters, whips out plenty of disturbing delights from its bloody bag of tricks, yet the result makes one want to hurl rather than cower in fear.
Halloween and Alien managed to terrify viewers while providing their lead heroines with some form of growth, going from average Janes to women who realized they had to seize the moment and be ultra-tough to save the day. But Cuthbert, as capable and pretty as she is, remains an ineffective heroine though little fault of her own. The script thrusts her into the action, never giving us the time to decide whether or not she's someone worth investing our attention in.
Horror films don't have to include something new and crazy or explain themselves thoroughly to be scary. The original version of The Hitcher clouded its antagonist in mystery and was all the more frightening for it. But even though Captivity is decent-looking and swiftly-paced, it's still hollow as a cavity.
MY RATING: * 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by Lionsgate and rated "R" for strong violence, torture, pervasive terror, grisly images, languag and some sexual material .)