Captivity

Captivity

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            “Captivity” has finally hit theaters after months and month of delays, re-edits, and poster controversy (You may have heard the story about how the first version of the “Captivity” billboards was too grisly). It will probably vanish from the collective consciousness much more quickly. I heard it opened at #12 at the box office.

            “Captivity” is not a very good film. And I wanted to like it, too. I wanted the star, the pretty Canadian Elisha Cuthbert, a talented actress, to prove that she can do more than low-grade B movies, and perhaps star in something that transcends the genre (the remake of “House of Wax” was pretty stupid, and the trashy promises of “The Quiet” went unfulfilled). I’m not going to be giving Cuthbert Oscars anytime soon, but she adds a little class to her otherwise undemanding roles. I wanted to see director Roland Joffé, who did such good work on 20something-year-old films like “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission,” elevate a typical “torture porn” film to something that was thoughtful and perhaps challenging and not just unseemly. I wanted to prove that I, a die-hard horror buff, can still love what’s new and being put out there. I wanted to love the clever B-movie sensibilities of B-movie vet screenwriter Larry Cohen (“The Stuff,” “It’s Alive!”).

 

            Sadly, I did not love “Captivity,” and it does not whet my desires to see “Saw IV,” or any of the recent horror remakes that have been so hip (Remake of “The Hills Have Eyes part II?” Oh please.).

 

            After a brief introduction in which a young man is coated with plaster of Paris and injected with acid (yuck), we’re introduced to Jennifer Tree (Cuthbert), a vapid supermodel with no friend other than her dog. We’re given little on her, as she is quickly drugged and kidnapped from a bar by a faceless serial killer. She wakes up in a little comfy cell, alone, with all of her clothes and toiletries from home conveniently given to her. Occasionally, gas seeps into the room, and she is carted to a little cage, strapped to a dentist chair, and subjected to painful tortures. At one point, she is forced to drink blended human eyeballs and fingers. It’s icky.

 

            Before I continue, let me tell you more about her cell. This cell is constructed less like the normal serial killer lair we see in movies (think of the well in “The Silence of the Lambs”), and more like something a Batman villain would have come up with. It has gassing tubes, bright lights and noise machines that can be cranked up to 11, hidden passageways, cameras everywhere. The air ducts are within the killer’s grasp, and there are hidden key card slots in some of the walls. The killer constructed a one-way mirror with Jennifer Tree’s portrait printed on it. During one brief escape, Jennifer finds that what seems to be a way out was only a false front built to, I dunno, perhaps instill false hope? The killer is also seen cobbling together comics and scrapbooks detailing the downfall of each tortured victim. Oh, and we also see him as an accomplished cook. This is the single more resourceful and industrious killer in the history of serial killer movies.

 

            Anyway, after the first half of “Captivity” has unspoiled featuring nothing but pain and screaming (dull and unpleasant), we finally meet Gary (Daniel Gillies), a fellow captive. The bind through the glass wall in their room, and their captor has a grand old time letting them spending time together, and seeing them flirt and bond and scheme.

 

            There is then a big twist in the plot which I will not reveal. This is not one of those film-end stingers like in most films of this sort, but an actual changing of gears. It’s not until this happens that the film actually picks up a little. Not enough to elevate it, but it has the good sense to do something different other than the torture we’ve seen so far.

 

            I’m not going to be giving Oscars to Cuthbert anytime soon, but she is a fine actress, and lends a bit of spunk and spirit to a role that, I suspect, was intended for a brainless blonde topless screamqueen “actress.” Pruitt Taylor-Vince shows up in this film as well, and it’s hard to think he’s not the killer, after seeing him play killers and creeps in “Identity,” “The End of Violence,” “Natural Born Killers,” and a memorable episode of “The X-Files.”

 

            It’s not as bad as some of the other torture porn that’s been in theaters over the last few years (it’s a hell of a lot better than the remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), but that’s not saying much. It does, however, play well with the limited space: much of the film takes place in a single room, and Joffé allows us to see and inhabit the space, really feeling the claustrophobia.

 

            Me? I just went to make sure the talent involved goes on to make better things.

             N.B.: The poster for “Captivity” features an “R” rating for “grizzly images.” I guess the MPAA is really cracking down on bears these days.

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Published in: on July 19, 2007 at 10:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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