A Horrible Way to Die (2012)

Directed By: Adam Wingard
Written By: Simon Barrett
Starring: AJ Bowen
  Amy Seimetz
  Joe Swanberg
  Whitney Moore
A Horrible Way to Die

A Horrible Way to Die is surprisingly good. I say “surprisingly” because the premise (without revealing any major twists) sounds very pedestrian and as about as original as cheese. But A Horrible Way to Die is smartly created, strangely compelling and well worth a watch.

Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is having a tough time. She is a recovering alcoholic with severe trust issues and a troubled history… which comes back to haunt her when her ex-boyfriend escapes prison. Unfortunately her ex isn’t just a normal criminal, he’s Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen), a renowned serial killer with a humungous fan-base of likeminded psychopaths. Turrell is free and he’s coming to find Sarah…

As I mentioned earlier, this premise isn’t exactly Memento-esque complicated. It’s very simple and could’ve easily been “just another serial killer movie”, but it is cunningly designed and developed, heading into an unexpected territory that throws any preconceptions out of the window. I cannot reveal any more without spoiling it, but the final act is excellent.

Garrick Turrell is played brilliantly by AJ Bowen, who brings a disconcerting vulnerability to this demented serial killer. He is immensely watchable and excellent throughout. The supporting cast also do superbly well, from the members of Sarah’s alcoholics anonymous group to her recent squeeze Kevin, played sharply by Joe Swanberg.

Unfortunately the major weak point in A Horrible Way to Die is the character of Sarah, who – despite Amy Seimetz’s best efforts – just isn’t sympathetic enough. We understand her plight but don’t really know enough about her to care – there are many details of her current life we are unsure of. Although deliberately evasive, it makes her hard to empathize with and it’s the only real weakness in A Horrible Way to Die. Our focus is more on Garrick Turrell and (rather bizarrely) our sympathies shift towards him. This may be deliberate, but we shouldn’t feel outwardly ambivalent towards Sarah, which we do for the majority of the film.

A Horrible Way to Die is directed finely by Adam Wingard and – coupled with Jasper Justice Lee’s effective score – always forces a sense of uneasiness and dread into each scene. It is moody, dark and maturely created and uses it’s (clearly) limited budget very effectively.

Simon Barrett’s script is also very well designed, with multiple timelines seamlessly sew together and some moments of real brutality coupled with subtle moments of post-violent horror. It’s a vicious piece, brilliantly crafted. Barrett is also responsible for scripting the criminally underrated Dead Birds and Red Sands, so I’m keen to see what he produces in the future.

Overall A Horrible Way to Die is a quality little horror film; brutal, thought-provoking, demented and thoroughly enjoyable. Despite the niggling ambivalence towards our protagonist Sarah, A Horrible Way to Die it is certainly well worth watching.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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