JULY 15, 2007
It’s almost sad that Captivity has finally been released, as it means we will never get another missed release date. Driving around LA, one will see about 900 posters for the film, most of them with the correct release date, but there are a few with the older dates (May 18th, and June 22nd), with the final “Friday the 13th: July 13th”. But as it turns out, there isn’t a date on the calendar that would have been the ‘best’ time to release this god awful piece of shit.
Whereas Saw and Hostel are technically sound films that do indeed have actual stories, Captivity actually IS what a lot of folks mistakenly dismiss those other films as: shallow and pointless. Sure, the other films have extended torture scenes, but there is a genuine story behind the films and some sort of justification for what we are seeing. But at no point in Captivity does it ever make any fucking sense that the killer makes Elisha Cuthbert drink a blended mix of body parts. Or pretend to melt her face. Or, in the film’s worst moment, shoot her poor little dog close range with a shotgun (which caused a couple walkouts in my screening).
Killing a dog is of course, the easy way to make an audience hate the bad guy without remorse, and usually I can deal with it, but here, there are many problems with this scenario. First of all, the dog is killed to spare the life of someone we do not like. Cuthbert, playing a Paris Hilton-type model/actress, isn’t given any character development other than letting us know she doesn’t want to go to a charity event. Charming. Why exactly do we want this woman to live? You’re practically rooting for the villain, let alone the dog. Second, the villain is so one dimensional, we don’t feel anything toward him whether he kills the dog or not. Christ, the dog’s practically the only lifeform in the entire movie that has any sort of character arc.
Halfway through the film or so, we are given a ‘twist’ that you’d have to be dead not to see coming: the guy she’s trapped with is actually the brains behind the whole operation. In addition to rendering more than a couple of his scenes totally pointless (why does he lash out and give his ‘captor’ the FUCK YOU, STOP! speech when she isn’t around to hear it?), this also makes the film as a whole even more worthless than it already was. Like The Village, the twist seemingly justifies the scenario, rather than the other way around. But since it’s so obvious, you spend all the time leading up to it wondering why they even bothered trying to hide it at all. Let us quote Hitchcock on such matters (if for no other reason than to provide perhaps the only review of Captivity that mentions Hitchcock):
Hitchcock: There is a distinct difference between "suspense" and "surprise," and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean.
We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!"
Instead, we get about 40 nonstop minutes of the same 3 scenes repeated over and over: Cuthbert sees something that might help her escape and uses it to get to another room; Cuthbert is caught and gassed or otherwise rendered unconscious; Cuthbert is “tortured” (I put that in quotes because at the end of the film she doesn’t have a scratch on her. She goes through more genuine torture in any season two episode of 24 than she does here). Then the tables are turned and we spend the rest of the movie marveling at what an inept mastermind this guy is (pretending to escape with her, he leaves her alone in a room with a television on that shows him actually going off to clean up after himself).
It’s all the more disappointing when you consider writer Larry Cohen and director Roland Joffe (not to mention cinematographer Daniel Pearl) are actually quite talented filmmakers. Just last week, I watched Cohen’s Uncle Sam, and there was more intelligence and even occasional wit in any 5 minutes of that film than the whole of this piece of shit. He (and co-writer Joseph Tura) couldn’t even be bothered to give the villain any sort of motive or reason for his doings. There’s a flashback that alludes to him being molested by his mom (hey-o!!!) but why that inspired him to drape someone in plaster of paris and then bash their head in with a sledgehammer is beyond me. Christ, I learned more about his back-story watching his interview on Bloody-Disgusting than I did in the film.
Incidentally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the original version of the film contained none of the “torture” scenes (or even the poor dog – yes, they added in scenes of a lovable little Bichon being blown apart by a shotgun blast to ‘improve’ the film), and instead was a bit more focused on character, and featured a number of scenes with two cops who are looking for Cuthbert. The twists (and in fact the entire last half hour) are the same, but the first hour is pretty much entirely different. Perhaps this cut will surface on DVD, as it is slightly better. Not GOOD, but better. But they opted to release the “pointless torture scenes” version, and that’s the one I paid for, so that’s the one I’m reviewing. Just because there once was at least SOME validity to it doesn’t make it OK. So fuck this movie.
For once I am glad a horror movie tanked at the box office. It’s shit like this that is precisely why almost every horror movie this year has underperformed. Even gorehounds and teenagers know worthless garbage when they see it. The existence of this movie might prevent a somewhat decent one from being properly released, and that’s the only scary thing about it.
What say you?