Words have been failing me since last week when I saw this execrable excuse for a film, but as it has now chosen a US opening date of next Friday, the 13th, I feel I need to say something about it. It’s a benchmark for how low the genre has sunk and I sincerely hope that this plus the failure of Hostel II signals an end to torture porn.
My first problem with Captivity is the offending ad campaign pictured here. The issue I have isn’t with the images (remove the descriptive text and they lose a massive amount of impact anyway) but with the hysterically disingenuous response from Lions Gate when the hooha that the billboards created led to their removal. Are we really honestly supposed to believe that Lions Gate had no knowledge of the posters, hadn’t approved them as final or sanctioned their placement on Hollywood Boulevard? Because I don’t. There is no such thing as bad publicity and this got a lot of people talking. And then May 18th came and went and the film never materialised.
And this leads me to my second problem with Captivity. The reason for the delay in its release. After opening in Spain and Russia in March to hateful hateful reviews and audience derision, a third of the film was reshot. Why was it reshot? To add gore. Yes, that’s right, apparently the film wasn’t bloody enough. The original idea for the film was to be more psychological in its application of terror. All those elements have now been removed and in their place are some deeply unpleasant sequences full of blood and body parts.
I have no problem with gore, per se. My problem with torture porn comes from the films being deemed scary or even terrifying by people. No. There is a gigantic difference between gore and terror. Films like Cabin Fever and Hostel being deemed truly frightening is frankly laughable. There is nothing frightening about seeing someone eaten from the inside by some flesh eating virus. Unpleasant? Yes. Gruesome? Yes. Frightening. Nope.
Interestingly, two horror films from the recent past are often accused of being filled with gore when they’re nothing of the sort. Saw is unfairly maligned, particularly when seen in the shadow of the two (soon to be, God help us all, three) inferior sequels. However the first Saw movie is not really that bloody and it has some sequences that are really edge of the seat stuff. The sequence where Leigh Whannell’s character is kidnapped and he is running round his apartment searching for the intruder using his camera flash for example. And the last few minutes packed quite a punch and having nothing but Whannell’s desperate screams play over the end credits ensured that I for one left the theatre somewhat traumatised.
The remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is also beaten with the gore stick on occasion. I had a lengthy disagreement with a friend of mine over the gore content of this movie, I claiming it was not really that bloody, he claiming it was a blood soaked atrocity. Eventually he watched it again and had to concede that I was right. It’s bloodier than the original that’s for sure, but in terms of blood spillage on the screen, it’s no Kill Bill. The original Halloween was often criticised for its level of bloody gore when it has hardly any. It was shot so suggestively and so brilliantly, people THOUGHT they’d seen something far gorier than they had. I shudder to think how horrendous Rob Zombie’s remake is going to be.
When will the new breed of so called horror film makers wake up and realise their films are not frightening? When will they realise that what you DON’T see is far far more terrifying than what you do? What is being passed off as horror right now is coming ever more uncomfortably close to exploitation as a bunch of pretty people of questionable talent spend the better part of 90 minutes in various states of undress being subjected to difficult to watch torture sequences.
In the case of Captivity, these extend to acid showers and being force fed entrail smoothies. It’s ironic that after the studio ordered more explicit material, the MPAA then asked for over 30 cuts to be made. This is the same version submitted for release in the UK. The cuts have made the film incoherent as whole sequences have no grounding and when you factor in the re-shoots and re-edits, the whole film is very patchwork and when it’s not making you want to throw up it’s because you’re too confused by the herky jerky plotting to care what the hell is going on.
In addition to this, it doesn’t have an original bone in its body. The plot twist can be seen coming from about three seconds in and is revealed in the exact same way as the exact same twist is revealed in My Little Eye (I mean for heavens sake, if you’re going to steal, at least steal from something GOOD). The overall set up owes far too much to Saw. However, that film had the courage of its convictions and offed the two protagonists (offscreen too, so it was left to the viewer to work out how). I’m sure I’m spoiling nothing when I say that some of the reshoots have rendered the final panel of the original ad campaign redundant. Shame.
So please. Don’t see the movie. It’s a worthless piece of crap. And I say that as someone who loves horror movies, studied horror movies for a year in college and wrote a five thousand word essay on the social relevance of the slasher movie. Anyone who doesn’t think the slasher movie HAS any social importance should listen to Sean S. Cunningham’s commentary track on the DVD of the first Friday The 13th movie. These movies said something, they just said it with scares and with blood. The current crop of sadistic rubbish pretending to be movies are empty vessels. The writers and directors seem to think it’s sufficient entertainment as long as there’s enough blood and guts to satiate the audience’s appetite. It’s not, and it shows a marked disregard for the intellect of your audience. Not everyone is as dumb as Eli Roth and his friends seems to think we are.