A Horrible Way To Die Review
By Ryan Morrissey-Smith
"A Horrible Way To Die is an outstanding study in humanity, both lack of it and having an abundance of it"
With 'You’re Next' hitting cinemas soon, Haddonfield horror decided to re-visit Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s first film 'A Horrible Way To Die'. Having not got around to seeing this when it was released it was a first time experience for me…and wow, what an experience.
With an alarmists (and cool) title like 'A Horrible Way To Die' this is not what you expect. A slow burning serial killer film, that not only gives you the requisite chills but also give you the emotion that is generally lacking in films of this kind.
The plot is simple: An escaped killer tracks down the woman that put him away. Yet what writer Simon Barrett does is show that the past has consequences for everyone and that is on display from the first scene to the last. Wingard employs an always moving, sometimes out of focus camera that gives the feeling that you are only getting half of what is happening perhaps a ploy given the main character has had struggles with her perception because of alcohol. The camera gets in close to the action sometimes giving you a sense of closeness with characters and sometime it almost feels voyeuristic. This style of filming will annoy some but I think it adds to the feel of the film. The film builds in intensity from the start with an ominous if not somewhat off putting score setting the tone of the film.
Amy Seimetz plays Sarah a recovering alcoholic who is plagued by the demons of her past, trying to deal with the betrayal by her boyfriend. The betrayal is spoken of as if it were a cheating partner, when in actual fact Sarah’s boyfriend was a serial killer. The pain Sarah feels is palpable as she almost feels responsible and that it wouldn’t have happened if she was sober. This is where the movie shines; it spotlights just how this horrible series of events have affected others.
This brings us to Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen) he was Sarah’s kind and loving partner. He just happens to kill whenever he can. As the film flashes back to Garrick and Sarah’s relationship, there are plenty of late night meetings and late night walks that Garrick takes in order to keep his secret hidden. However despite the disconnect between Garrick’s care for Sarah and his other activities, the chemistry between Garrick and Sarah is great, which is a testament to just how good AJ Bowen is in this film. Creating a rounded, contradicting character Bowen makes Garrick sympathetic despite the fact he kills people. He is conflicted yet knows he cannot control himself. The film rolls along nicely, never getting bogged down; even when Sarah starts dating again, the relationship she has with fellow AA participant Kevin (Joe Swanberg) seems very organic and relatable. Kevin seems to be a really relaxed kind of guy, who seems to be in his own world of pain, as you’d imagine.
All of the three main leads are great. Amy Seimetz gives Sarah the air of someone whom could well go back to the bottle if something went wrong, she seems to be walking the edge between living a sober life or hiding in a booze soaked world. As mentioned before AJ Bowen is great. For such an awful character, he creates sympathy for Garrick and gives him plenty of layers. Joe Swanberg is fantastic as well, never over playing the nice role he is given but really expanding on it when needed.
As good as this film is it is not without its problems. When Sarah comes to realise that Garrick is coming to get her, instead of going to the police she decides she is safe with Kevin which seems like a leap in logic but could be written off as panicked decision. There are some other slight missteps along the way which briefly take you out of the film but I see these as minor issues, when viewing the film as a whole. Some people may have an issue with the ending given what transpires but if you look back through the film there are clues all through it and this is before the finale smacks you in the face. Personally I think it is one of the great horror film endings, you never know which way it is going to go and when it does go the way it does, it still throws you for a loop. One of the very saddest endings I’ve seen this side of the film May.
'A Horrible Way To Die' is an outstanding study in humanity, both lack of it and having an abundance of it. A film about trust and deception, about opening yourself up after being betrayed, about hurt and the way we try to heal. This film left me feeling quite sad and for a film to make you feel long after the credits have rolled is a great film in my books.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @TigersMS78