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Anchor Bay / 87 Minutes / 2010 / Rated R / Street Date: September 6, 2011
Torture porn is all the rage in modern horror cinema. Most genre-specific horror flicks made today aren't just particularly graphic, but exceptionally so, taking an almost gleeful hyper-interest in the details of pain and suffering piled on victims of killers. This is certainly the case with A Horrible Way to Die (in title alone!): We don't even get through opening credits before we watch a super-groady murder in progress.
A Horrible Way to Die attests to be more than just a gross-out, but it hardly breaks out of its bloody balloon. Director Adam Wingard nobly puts the ex-girlfriend of the serial killer introduced at film's start at the center of the film's vortex - her struggle with both her personal challenges in life and her current alcoholism make her an endearing, empathetic counterpart to ex-beau Garrick's (A.J. Bowen's) lunatic murderous instincts - but even if the film has aims of being about a woman's coming-to-terms with her past and not a glorification of the passion of murder, it doesn't sell that point authentically.
The movie follows a double tendril: Sarah (Amy Seimetz) tries to cope with her booze trouble and get her sea legs in her life again on one plane, and Garrick's escape from prison and revenge-fueled murder spree is highlighted on the other. He wants to get at Sarah because she alerted the authorities as to his, you know, killing, and she starts to fear for her very life that he might actually make good on this manic bloodlust.
Seimetz turns in an effective performance in A Horrible Way to Die, but any aims of the film to be outside the realm of straight-to-video torture porn horror gross fall distinctly flat. No, with A Horrible Way to Die, one gets exactly what this film's particularly on-the-nose title promises. Instead of being an intriguing emotional/dramatic inspection of the relationship of victims to their past aggressors, A Horrible Way to Die is this week's torture porn flick of the week that will be woefully passe once next week's ultra-gore nightmare hits shelves.