Review: A Horrible Way To Die (18) / Director: Adam Wingard / Screenplay: Simon Barrett / Starring: AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, Brandon Carroll, Lane Hughes / Released date: March 19th
When we first meet Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen, from House of the Devil and Hatchet 2) he is seemingly comforting a bound and gagged girl he has just taken out of the boot of a car. Then he snaps her neck. A fittingly grim and sombre opening to another entry into that new sub-genre – brutal horror.
Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is in an AA meeting, three months dry and obviously struggling emotionally. It's here she meets Kevin (Joe Swanberg) and the pair slowly begin dating.
A Horrible Way To Die is a film that is told in a non-linear order, the narrative flitting back and forth between Garrick escaping from prison, to being in a relationship with Sarah. It seems Sarah discovered what Garrick was up to when he kept going for midnight walks during their time together, and she rightfully reported him. Now, Garrick is loose and seemingly on his way to find Sarah, leaving a body count in his wake. Garrick seems a complicated killer, though, his victims are completely random and almost incidental, just stepping stones used to get nearer his goal of finding Sarah. He is tormented and remorseful too, and it's a credit to Bowen as an actor that this quality shines through.
Telling of our modern morbid times, we find out that Garrick had lots of fan mail during his prison time, including several proposals of marriage and a Facebook fan page with members in the thousands.
With the irregular narrative, it sometimes takes a few moments at the start of scenes to figure out at what point of the Sarah/Garrick saga we are up to, but it's not too hard to grasp and soon everything begins to fall into place as the killer crosses the country in search of the woman who put him away, and we realise they both had their (very different but both very self destructive) addictions to deal with.
There's been mention in other reviews about the camera work used in the film, true, it can be a little off putting at first, but after a while you realise the camera is just replicating the human eye. We don't always see everything in perfect focus, nor do we always look straight at what you imagine the point of interest or focus should be. Some of the shots are heavily stylised, when Kevin and Sarah get it on for the first time, it seems as though the scene was shot through a screen of bokeh, then it becomes clear that she has fairy lights throughout her room, and it becomes a perfectly natural look. The sex ends quite prematurely though *ahem*.
The film has a grainy, grindhouse look, reminiscent of Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer, and it's that film that this is closest to more than any other serial killer film. Director Adam Wingard has made a very good film, maybe not one you would call enjoyable, as it's quite bleak but certainly well made. Both Wingard and actor Swanberg are amongst the directing talent on the upcoming V/H/S found footage film which gives me at least a little hope for that one! Recommended.