OCTOBER 11, 2008
I haven't seen too many of Eric Red's films, either when he's just the writer (Near Dark) or taking directing duties as well (Body Parts), but I feel safe in saying that 100 Feet will be remembered as one of his best. Taking a minimal (and potentially disastrous) storyline - a woman under house arrest being tormented by the ghost of her abusive husband - and maximizing the number of scares and surprising plot elements, his work here should be commended, and seen by the widest audience possible.
First of all, there's fewer ways to ensure an audience stays engaged with what is onscreen than to structure your film in a manner that places Famke Jannsen front and center for nearly every second of the running time. She's always been an interesting actress (has she ever even stooped to a romcom?) and she's as hot now as she was 13 years ago in Goldeneye. On the surface, a movie about a woman confined to her home sounds as visually exciting as watching paint dry, but Red and Famke prove that notion wrong.
And you gotta give props to Michael Paré, playing the ghost of her ex-husband. The ghost design is super creepy (it's sort of J-horror inspired, but with a touch of German expressionism), and while you never really see Paré's face, you can tell it's him, and he is one brutal motherfucker. There's a bit late in the film when he utterly annihilates Famke's new boyfriend, and the blood splatter from the guy forms an image of his person, a la the invisible man effects in Hollow Man or Memoirs Of An Invisible Man. It's one of the best (and most violent) "ghost attack" scenes I've seen in ages.
Again, this could all be ludicrous, but the film is played 100% serious, and it works. There are at least 4 great jump scares in the film, plus one of the all time best "hand in the garbage disposal" scenes. Lots of horror films have this gag, and sometimes it fails to deliver the intended effect (i.e. scaring me out of ever putting my own hand in one again - I'm always losing bottle caps down there!), but this one nails it.
I also like how Red chose to not beat us over the head with some of the details. Early on the ghost begins tossing plates at Famke at breakneck speed. Later on, we see that she has replaced all her kitchenware with plastic or Styrofoam, but we don't have a cutesy scene of her buying bulk Dixie stock. One detail I wish they did explain though was why Famke always stretches to open her front door, as it falls just outside her "100 foot" range. We are told she has 3 minutes before she will get in trouble, and she even leaves the house entirely at one point (timing her 3 minutes), so why she can't just open the door normally and walk the two steps back is a bit puzzling.
Another minor issue is her husband's ex-partner. He starts off the film hating her, assuming she just killed her husband for no reason and not self-defense. But halfway through he's suddenly on her side, however he's now convinced she didn't really kill him, but that someone else did and she is covering for them. Huh? He even admits to finally reading her police reports that the husband's buddies had "lost", so how he came to this alternate conclusion is a bit baffling.
Still, for a ghost movie, two minor issues is way below par. Like I've said before, I don't usually find ghosts/supernatural type things to be particularly scary, but this one works. The occasional humor does its job (levity), and it never drags, which is, again, something you don't expect when you're dealing with something that could almost be done as a stage play. Its theatrical future is uncertain, but if it eventually goes DTV, don't let that fool you: this is a movie that deserves to be seen.
What say you?