APRIL 17, 2009
Given how fucking awful the screening room was last year at the Fangoria convention, I was really hoping to not have to use it this year for any HMAD entries. But I ran out of time before I had to leave for the con, and had no choice but to check out Mum & Dad there, as I knew after the con I'd likely be carrying on the festivities elsewhere, perhaps with beer and Rock Band. Luckily, the screening room location changed, and at least in a visual sense, it is much improved. For starters, the screen is elevated, so if you're in the back you can still see it. There are also a lot more seats, so the 10 people max that bother to watch a movie there can spread out instead of getting their heads in each others' way.
Unfortunately, the sound was a total bust. If things were completely quiet, it would be acceptable (still very compressed sounding, as it was a mono sound source being played on two speakers), but that is not the case during a convention. Music from the auction room (to the right of the theater) and booming audio from the main panel hall (room behind the screen) was a constant distraction, and given that the film has a rather subdued sound design (i.e. lots of quiet scenes or people just talking), it became difficult to hear dialogue, and worse, impossible to really focus on the movie.
So it is with some hesitation that I say that it's not exactly the best of the survival horror genre. Maybe under a proper screening circumstance, I would be more enveloped into the film and feel more strongly about it. Because it's certainly better than say, Broken, which had similar subject manner (a man making a "family" out of unwilling kidnap victims). For starters, it has some actual character development, and not just from our protagonist. Her abductors are fleshed out as well. Even the mute "son", who is the closest any of them come to sympathetic, manages to get his state of mind across as the film progresses.
I also dug the occasional humor. It's the typically droll British stuff for the most part, and it's well-placed as well. Too much and you become a farce, too little and you prevent the audience from "getting" a rare joke in an otherwise bleak and dark film. And the humor (or, I guess, humour, as this is a British film) always comes from the family doing typical family things amidst all of the bloodshed around them, a la Texas Chainsaw (any of them in the original series).
It's also fairly suspenseful at times, but unfortunately that is a byproduct of the script's lack of surprise. Anyone who has seen this type of film knows how it goes - the girl gets kidnapped, tries to fight, eventually comes around and acts as the captors expect, then her plan goes awry, leading to escalated violence before her eventual escape. And given the fact that we HAVE seen films like this before, I kept expecting the script to turn the tables on our expectations, which made such standard stock scenes (like the inevitable "Girl gets free and sort of investigates the house rather than leave" sequence) feel a lot more suspenseful, because I kept expecting something different to happen than usual (i.e. she goes back to her room and chains herself back up before getting caught).
And that's the only real problem with the movie - it just doesn't add anything to the genre. It's not like I Know My First Name Is Stephen, where the victim eventually just succumbs to their new life, only to "snap out of it" when a new victim is introduced to the mix - she NEVER really accepts her fate, which would have been interesting from a character point of view. Even when she briefly acts like the dutiful daughter the titular characters expect her to, it's always clear that she's merely trying to catch them off guard. Plus this section of the film lasts less than ten minutes, so it doesn't really make an impact anyway.
Also, director Steven Sheil continuously cuts to shots of planes flying overhead. They serve their purpose - reminding us that there is a lot of noise that would drown out any screams, as well as the irony of someone being trapped with the entire world literally at their reach, but they are overused. At times, they will appear at top and tail of a single scene. I don't think they ever go more than 10 minutes without showing them (always in a succession of 3 shots, as well), and as a result they come off more as padding than as any sort of narrative/thematic device.
Finally, you see a fat man's ass. It's probably the most horrifying thing in the movie.
Still, it's worth a look (the movie, not the fat man's ass), especially if you haven't been exposed to a dozen of these things in the past couple years. There's nothing wrong with exploring familiar territory in a horror film, but when it's territory that is supposed to shock, it doesn't quite work when you follow the template so closely.
What say you?