SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
It's been a while since I've seen anything that seems to exist only to entertain those who miss the Saw movies, so maybe that's why Vile hit the spot for me. After all, we're now almost two years since the last entry in that series, and the series' decreased popularity has resulted in way fewer movies per year that featured people trapped in a location and having to endure severe pain/torture in order to get out. Not that I'm complaining - I have just about had my lifetime fill of such things - but around this time of year, when the ending of the Saw franchise is most felt, I get a little nostalgic for inappropriate use of toolbox items.
And to Vile's credit, they get two things right that many (even some of the Saws) get wrong. First off, the torture is actually part of the point of the film, as our protagonists have been taken against their will and forced to inflict pain on one another in order to produce endorphins for their captors. A doohickey attached to their necks will collect the chemical as it is produced due to the pain, and once the captors have the amount they need for their drug, they will be set free. So the trick is to inflict the necessary amount of pain on each other, but not so much that they are killed or even handicapped, as they will be allowed to leave but don't want to have to carry anyone (after a day of torture, they wouldn't have the energy). Sure, it's the sort of logic that only works in horror movies, but it's better than people being tied up and tortured by the killers for no reason other than to pad the runtime in their plotless crap.
The other thing is that I actually liked the four main characters, who we meet on a camping trip (one that's successful, another rarity - they're on their way home when things go bad). The actors have great chemistry, and while they're not exactly the most interesting people in the world, it's nice to meet normal, likable people BEFORE they find themselves in danger in one of these things. So many of them just start when they're all waking up, it's refreshing to have this bit of backstory, as well as spare us the usual bullshit where people wake up and instantly accuse the others of being guilty of their predicament (the line "It's because of YOU that we're all here!" has been uttered many a time in these things, and it never fails to irk me). When the foursome wake up, the other people have already introduced themselves to one another, learned why they are there, and have plans in motion. It's a solid way to bring the audience into the story - it still fulfills the need for putting us in their shoes and letting us be just as much in the dark as they are, but with someone up to speed to explain it to them/us so we're not wasting too much time.
Also, though this might be a red mark for some, it's not too gory. Most of the torture involves prying off fingernails (usually off-screen, or at least not in closeup) or putting a hot iron on someone, as opposed to Achilles slashing or fingers being chopped off or whatever. I've seen enough of that nonsense in my life, so it doesn't faze me in the slightest that the movie is relatively "tame" in that department. The most heinous on-screen act is thankfully reserved for the movie's most obnoxious/hateful character, who kills one of them (sort of on accident) while trying to ward off the others when it's time for her turn to be abused. Without any reason to feel sympathy for this jerk, it's not even that hard to watch when one takes a wrench to her jaw in order to knock out some of her teeth. And they presumably do much worse to her, the movie fades to black, only to fade up on the screen showing their progress (much further than before they started in on her). The huge jump is not only a darkly funny "sight gag", but also spares us from the site of 3-4 people smacking a woman around for 10 minutes, as if we need to see it.
The score is also quite good; it doesn't really fit the movie in a traditional way - it sounds like Sigur Ros or something - but it's quite lovely and melancholy, and the few song selections are solid as well. Apart from the main Saw theme, I can't think of a single "torture" movie where I walked away wanting the soundtrack, so kudos to the filmmakers and their (uncredited) composer for pulling that one off. Speaking of credits - they're terrible. If anyone involved is reading this - call me for your next movie, I'll give you a good rate. No one should have to see a misaligned cast or the default Final Cut Pro font for the film's opening quote (by Gandhi!).
Otherwise, my only issue with the movie was its climax, which is dragged out and not particularly satisfying. One character's fate is left unexplained, and the reveal that one of them was helping the villains is not remotely surprising at all as he was obviously nudging everyone in the right direction, and his excuse for the existing scars on his body didn't make any sense. If we weren't supposed to be surprised that he was a mole, why even hide it? Show him being all shifty-eyed throughout the film, or even updating the head honcho on their progress (the main villain is underutilized as is). The movie does get a touch repetitive at times, so anything to break it up would have been a good thing.
Still, with its seemingly "you know what you're in for" title and the fact that I usually can't tell these things apart by the time I write the review, I walked away more or less impressed with what it brought to the table. And it's well made (though the audio was quite low - might have been a transfer error), most of the actors are solid, and gave me a reason to care about the folks being brutalized for a change. Any time one of these gets more right than wrong, I'm satisfied. Good work, folks.
What say you?