Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – A Horrible Way to Die

My 2011 notes on the early Adam Wingard film.An unusual serial killer movie, which seems to dawdle through its set-up only to come into focus in the last act.  Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen), a bearlike, glowering serial murderer, escapes from a prison transport and makes his way across country.  Sarah (Amy Seimetz), a working class woman in a small town, attends AA meetings and tries to cope with a past trauma.  She begins seeing Kevin (Joe Swanberg), a preppy guy from the meetings, and eventually admits that she is Turrell’s wife, and instrumental in turning him in when she discovered his secret wasn’t infidelity but the murders of women.  Is Turrell coming for revenge?  The twist comes as Kevin takes Sarah out to his isolated cabin in order to protect her, and it turns out that he and a couple of his grungier buddies (Brandon Carroll, Lane Hughes) are huge fans of Turrell – one of those serial killers who has a Facebook support group and gets a lot of mail in jail – and have trapped her as a present for him.  In honour of their idol, they’ve also committed a copycat crime that gives the film its one shocking moment of explicit effects carnage.

With the heroine hung upside-down and cut about, the mood of the piece changes again as Turrell arrives and disappoints his fans by being angry with them – he’s struggled, like Sarah, with his addiction, and was grateful to her for ending his initial spree.  Now, he stands in judgement on the assholes who think he’s a cool role model rather than a walking disaster in eternal torment.  It does seem to be directionless, and is disorienting in its salting of flashbacks (hint: if Sarah is drinking, it’s the past) and slightly sneaky in a misleading subplot about the woman driver (Melissa Boatright) Turrell kidnaps and eventually kills (though this does show the plausible, calm side of the predator).  However, the last act pulls all the strands together and makes a powerful point.  Terrific, low-key performances all round, especially from Bowen (a vet of interesting indie horror – The Signal, The House of the Devil and, ah, Hatchet II) and Seimetz (Wristcutters: A Love Story).  Written by Simon Barrett (of the Sy Fy favourite Frankenfish); directed by the promising Adam Wingard.


One thought on “Film review – A Horrible Way to Die

  1. Martyn Conterio I really enjoyed this film.

    Chris Cooke I liked it a lot, really tragic as well as disturbing – the AA stuff was especially effective.

    Posted by kimnewman | May 17, 2017, 10:54 am

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