Donnybrook reviewed films playing the Starz Denver Film Festival this week on a 100 star system. Why? Because our opinion counts 20 times more than most peoples'. Today we reviewed the dark thriller, A Horrible Way to Die. Synopsis by Fritz Godard.
A Horrible Way to Die: 88.5 stars
A Horrible Way to Die follows recovering alcoholic Sarah as she tries to put her life back together. If the film was only about that, the title would make Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart look like a candy-coated, preschool-safe examination of the effects of self medicating; but there's more justification to the title than dying to have a drink. Sarah's ex-boyfriend is an escaped serial killer making his way across the country, leaving a trail of beautiful corpses behind him.
The parallel narratives play out. Sarah struggles to get by while she has no idea her ex is en route to her. On the other side of the film, we see the convicted serial killer, Garrick, elude a nationwide manhunt. By casting the lovable AJ Bowen (who seems to be typecast as an against-type villain) as Garrick, it's hard not to be intrigued by a man going across country preying on women. By the time the two stories meet, both Sarah and Garrick admit to being the same people they were when they last saw each other, but the circumstances of their latest encounter play out much differently than either expects.
Once again, Keith Garcia has programmed the perfect film for the genre-rich Watching Hour portion of the festival. Kudos, Keith. Kudos.
Fritz says: If you have a rack focus fetish, you must see this movie. This movie uses the rack more than medieval torture. That being said, the film is a solid thriller and it looks much better than if it was shot with a stock long lens. AJ Bowen and Amy Seimetz play inner turmoil just right.
Angora says: Have you watched a serial killer on the news and wondered 'how did his wife not know'? Well, maybe she was drunk all the time! A Horrible Way to Die explains this phenomenon realistically while also making a strong statement about the violence of addiction: Sarah's seemingly innocent tendency to drink a few too many blinded her to her boyfriend's killin' ways, implicating her too. Did I mention this film loves blurry Christmas lights?
Antoine von Frankenstein says: Under different direction, this could have easily been just an actor piece about addiction or a shock-and-gore thriller. But, fantastic camera work and editing made this really stand out as effective film-making. The camera was always buoyed somewhere in the middle of the drama, floating in and out of focus to transition into the next scene. At first I thought this style would be tiresome, but instead it added to the clouded, troubled state of mind the lead characters were experiencing.
Father Guido says: While the overuse of the blur transition would lead you to believe that the creators were grasping here, you would be wrong. This movie has one of the most original takes on a serial killer that I've ever seen.
Saturday, November 6th at MIDNIGHT at the Denver FilmCenter on Colfax
*Angora completely made up this caption, it was not in the movie