Plot: Man goes in for a routine procedure at a hospital and ends up in hell -whose hell and what kind of hell is really not important. It’s about the ride, really. And while the premise seems stale and old as horror itself, this is a quality movie. Great characters. Not quirky kind of great, real people in extraordinary circumstances kind of great. The actors are top notch. Dialogue flows. Tom Cavanagh stars as the man whose life goes from perfection to hell instantly, and he hits every note with perfection. He is a real man whose fears become reality and he endures with all the courage humanly possible. And you will see some top-notch cast surrounding him: Kathleen York, Paget Brewster, and even Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (so much more than his roots in Welcome Back, Kotter).
I loved the film but felt it fell into some interesting horror genre traps. Writer Erik Jendresen and director Tony Krantz, as far as I can tell, are not horror people. They have worked in numerous genres and with great success. This is possibly why they did not fall in the traps we expect them to fall in. Exposition is done with subtlety. The dialogue avoids the corny one-liners. The characters are far from cliche. The editing is flawless in tying it all up into a pretty bow. And the ending, was…inspiring. The composer and editing together told us this was not just the ending we were watching…it was a happy ending. Our hero has won. And not in the way one would expect. So while the plot may be tired, the character’s story was beautiful.
However, I think they were afraid this scary movie wouldn’t get the perks of being a horror movie (instant audience) without some gratuitous sex and violence. That’s what horror is, right? Sex and violence with some startling moments thrown in? Yes. It is. But no, it doesn’t have to be to get to sit on the horror shelf at Blockbuster (or I guess, as you kids call it, list in the horror section of Netflix).
The flaws start showing up deep into the second act. We are in the pits of hell with our main character and we want him to get out. But at some point, the ending becomes obvious. That’s not bad per se. This film is really about the man’s journey through this hell, so you know the ending isn’t going to be some a-ha moment for you, the audience. Because the ending becomes obvious, I think they could have shaved a good 15 minutes of the “WTF” scenes and moved into the final act early. I grew tired of the torture he was going through. It went from “Oh no, I like that guy! Don’t do that to him!” to “Alright already. Bad stuff happened to that guy. Can we move on?”
Another flaw: they thought sexy women have to be in horror movies. Okay, while that is true. A naughty nurse? Really? Seeeeeen it. Sure. she’s great. She ends up having more to her than a high heels and a gratuitous sex scene, but did. we. need. that? No. We THOUGHT we needed that to get to be a horror movie.
So odd to see a movie not fall into any of the normal horror movie traps and then fall into traps of WANTING to be a horror movie. And as I google the writer more, the more I’m disappointed. Wikipedia says “Jendresen also has to his credit several books, most of which deal with the socio-anthropology of Peru and the Amazon Basin, including ‘Dance of the Four Winds’ and its sequel ‘Island of the Sun’ (both based upon the journals of and co-written with Alberto Villoldo).” Wow! Looking back, I see his background in some of the characters and their dialogue, like the son’s fascination with surgical exorcisms and the brother’s free spirit travel to India and Africa. Fascinating stuff. But not enough of that is in this movie. I would have loved to have seen more of Jendresen’s intellectual background in this film. Us horror groupies could have kept up.
Overall, decent film, very well made. Wish the plot could keep up with the characters. I will likely now go get this writer/director duo’s 2008 movie, OTIS. Looks funny. Totally different.