Monday, October 29, 2012

A Horrible Way to Die is a decent way to spend the afternoon

Based on the title alone, A Horrible Way to Die is pretty intriguing. And it mostly lives up to the promise of its name, though not in the way you might expect. The film traces two plots: an escaped serial killer, Garrick, slashing his way across the Mid-South trying to make it back to the girlfriend who turned him in, and the girl herself, a recently sober dental hygienist, Sarah, struggling with some pretty bad memories as she tries to rebuild her life and form a relationship with a man in her AA group. When the plots converge, they do so in a way that surprised me, and didn't lead me to regret spending an hour and twenty-seven minutes with Simon Barrett's script.

There were moments I wasn't thrilled with Adam Wingard's direction, however. Though the gore both past and present is shown on the edges of the frame, in ways that make the snatches more horrifying for being so indistinct, Wingard is also a fan of the "shake the camera around to indicate frenzy and/or terror" school of direction. I, however, am not. The music was also a little too overblown for a story that is, in an odd way, quite intimate. Also, there is no way in hell that the rather large story of the escape of Garrick, according to the film one of "the nation's most popular serial killers" somehow escaped the notice of his ex-girlfriend, and  star witness of his prosecution, but she seems totally oblivious until, well, she can be oblivious no longer.

A Horrible Way to Die is very deliberate in its pacing, and very careful in its depiction of human relationships. Though at times the film's almost parable-like plot seems at odds with the brutal naturalism of its violence, the point its making, about what we will and will not ignore in order to find intimacy, is pretty sophisticated for a slasher flick.

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