So, you read that first line and what do you think? HORROR FLICK! What do you get when you watch it? Mystery/drama flick. What do you think when you look at the poster above? HORROR FLICK! What do you get? Mystery/drama. Much like the original Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was tricked into watching this thinking it was a horror film. Unlike The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this film is not a masterpiece. While it is not horrible and is actually a fairly decent film, the ‘tricksy’ way they sell it is questionable, to say the least.
Children are going missing in a small Washington mining town that is well past it’s glory days. The people who live there are rundown, tired, and barely making ends meet. We meet Julia (Jessica Biel), the doctor of the small town. When her ‘son’ is kidnapped from her home, the mystery deepens and we find that Julia is not the person we think she is.
The first half or so of the film is somewhat made as a horror film. The way they filmed it up until the abduction of Julia’s ‘son’ is more in line with a horror film than any other type. Once she is found lying in the middle of the road after not finding her son in the woods at night, the film takes a 180 degree turn that makes you question everything that has come in the film to that point. While the film is not a mind twister like John Carpenter‘s The Ward, where everything is in her head, it does make you question the type of character that Julia is. Then the film veers again, and you find out the true motivations of the character. Like I said, this is difficult to write and not give anything away.
Directed by Pascal Laugier (Martyrs), the film is a mystery/drama that is not terrifying. While some of the concepts introduced are frightening to parents, the way the film handles them and the ending in particular take some of that terror away. I liked the ending, personally, and up until the final few moments had no idea where the film was going to go. That is a rarity that I was surprised by the ending. I can usually call how they will end, but this time I was completely oblivious.
Jessica Biel shrugs off her super hot appearance in this film, and plays it as more of a normal everyday time of woman. With very little makeup, a pale complexion, and spending most of the film battered, bruised, and bleeding, she isn’t eye candy. She is a normal woman from this small used up mining town, whose husband is gone, we know not where. Much like the other residents, she is struggling to make it in this environment. While her performance in the film won’t turn any heads, she does a fine job as a character whose motivations shift throughout the film. By the end of the film, she becomes something of a tragic figure and there is where her performance really shines through.
I suppose a lot of my surprise with the film came from thinking and expecting a horror film. I was waiting for moments that would turn terrifying, but instead they never do. Maybe the questionable marketing actually worked on me. What I expected and what I got were two very different things and I kept waiting for something else to occur.
This is a difficult film to recommend. While it is not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, it is not a masterpiece, either. It kind of falls in that terrible middle ground. If you are looking for a decent mystery film that will keep you guessing until the end, give it a shot. You may actually like it. On the plus side, though, it does have an amazing ending that I did not see coming.
** out of ****
- Ambush Bug counts down the best horror films on AICN HORROR since last Halloween – Number 19!!! (aintitcool.com)
- AICN HORROR talks with Jessica Biel about her excellent new horror film THE TALL MAN and a bit about HITCHCOCK ! Plus a review of the film!!! (aintitcool.com)