Monday, October 22, 2012
At first, when this movie started, I wanted to turn it off. Not because it was disturbing or anything, but because the characters were really annoying and the movie had a title card before it began that offered us an explanation of the lead character that made it sound like a pretentious piece of arthouse bullshit, and I had heard from a lot of people how brilliant this movie is, which often means that it's tediously boring and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. I guess all those things are disturbing to me, but not for the reasons they're supposed to be. I have better things to do with my time, better movies to watch, and as much as I love Jack Ketchum, he can wander off into "pretentious bullshit" territory from time to time, so I was ready to give up on this movie before it had a chance to start.
Actually, for the first whole hour of this movie I was ready to give up on it. Luckily, the horror challenge forces me to cram as many horror movies as I can into one month, and often that keeps me watching movies I would have turned off in any other month, so I gave this movie a chance (under duress) and I'm glad I did, because by the time the final shot of the film rolls around, it had become one of the best movies I've watched this month.
This story concerns a lead character, Ray, who has spent his entire life trying to be his idea of a badass awesome rock star, which means he's mostly an insufferable jerk who cares more about himself than any other thing on the planet and is more style than substance. I've known many Rays in my own life, so I can spot the type from a mile away. Maybe that's part of why I wanted to turn this movie off so badly. I can walk out my door and run into twenty guys like Ray in town, so I didn't want to spend two hours watching him be a tool onscreen. Ray of course has a few close friends who put up with his abuse, and a cache of groupies who follow him around because they fell for the image he tries to project. Ray isn't just a poseur though, he's a genuine psychopath, and watching him come more and more unwound as the movie progresses is genuinely chilling.
If there's one thing Jack Ketchum does well, it's show the complexities of small town life. Small towns are often boring dead ends where kids with dreams face the harsh reality that often they're going to wind up stuck in some low-rent job for the rest of their lives. This can be disillusioning and also dangerous, as boredom leads to people taking stupid chances. Ray takes this to the extreme, and even though a lot happens in the first ten minutes of the movie and then almost nothing happens for like, 45 minutes after that, there is a lot of character building going on there.
I felt bad for Ray's friends, following along with his plans because they've always done it and they don't know how to live any other way. I feel bad for Ray's victims who are often simply in the wrong place at the very wrong time, and the whole ending sequence had me squirming in my seat for the last twenty or so minutes of the film. It's icky and bloody and it made me face things I don't like looking at because I see some of them around me every day, and though it's an uncomfortable experience, I'm glad I gave this movie a chance to get under my skin. It ended up being worth every minute.