Directed By: Eli Roth
Written By: Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez & Guillermo Amoedo
Story By: Anthony Overman & Michael Ronald Ross
Cinematography By: Antonio Quercia
Editor: Diego Macho
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Lorenaa Izzo, Ana De Armas, Aaron Burns, Colleen Camp, Ignacia Allamand
When a devoted husband and father is left home alone for the weekend, two stranded young women unexpectedly knock on his door for help. What starts out as a kind gesture results in a dangerous seduction and a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Where do i start with this film. Let me first say though I know some have been highly critical of the man and his films. so far I have never out and out disliked a Eli Roth directed film. Some I have been disappointed by and some I have just really thought he was onto something and didn’t quite make it. Though those films were maybe building blocks to his eventual masterpieces. Though I can admit I always look forward to see what he will make or present next.
Here, he gets a major movie star to actually star in his film. Another star who has been highly criticized over the years. Yet still keeps it moving. Who I tend to like as a screen presence even if some of his performances leave a lot to be desired. Though he always comes off as competent and cool. Keanu Reeves.
So with this film also being a more restrained departure for director Eli Roth. As it is more a thriller then out and out horror. One would think this could be a new start and truly a worthwhile project for them both.
Then you would be wrong. As this film is a total disaster. The bad thing is that there is so much promise in the film that strangely decreases as it goes along.
I know this film is a remake of the 1970’s film DEATH GAME. it even has one of the co-stars make an appearance Colleen Camp (who is also one of the producers. Sondra Locke who co-starred in the original film. Doesn’t appear on screen, but is one of the executive producers.
Considering Mr. Roth’s films of the past where he never seemed to have any reservations of being gratuitous when it came to sex, nudity and violence. That even if the film and it’s story were bad. At least the film and audience would have these exploitive traits as treasures of the viewing experience, but even there he chooses to try a different route and show it somewhat, but in a more detached fashion. That seems more staged and like it belongs in a borderline PG-13 movie. As the storyline of the film looks like and seems like it could be inspired by the film WILD THINGS . Involving two irresistibly beautiful young ladies in skimpy outfits and states of undress, threesomes, seduction and a surprise. Which had sense enough to know what kind of film or was while trying to offer up suspense. Which among the many problems the film has is a major one. The film doesn’t have any suspense.
So that the erotic scenes aren’t even strong or even really too tempting and leaves you with little pay off. They almost feel censored. You believe because of his usual horror or violent elements they will eventually come through. The little that do come off as weak and never lead to Any graphic violent scenes.
Instead the film tries to go for a frantic build up. Where it proves to have no strength and leaves he audience with little to no interest.
So that the film tries to sell itself in it’s more exotics elements and known history of it’s director in the genre. Then ends up leading the audience on. Like the characters seem to do. And not give them what they want.
The films characters or more so villains really have no motivation. They tend to explain it now and then bit seems like filler as it can quickly be thrown off as a generalization. So that it feels misdirected and really leaves the audience confused as to where they are coming from. As they try to make it seem like it is some kind of women’s rights and that men are scum. But considering their seduction and actions plus hints that this might have been a set-up planned way in advance. It hardly sends a message and never makes us feel like reeves character deserves his fate to the degree of which he gets.
As they seduce him, though he resists at first and then basically entrap him. Then want to punish him And treat him like a criminal. For let’s face it a scenario most would find hard to turn down. Especially it heavily forced on them. Not like they really gave him a choice. Even if their characters early point out they don’t believe in monogamy or true love overcoming all. So then what is the point here?
Plus in sending this message they kill an innocent person. So where does that fit into their ideology? Plus they are very non-chaos that about it. As the film I can understand wants them to stay unpredictable as the villains. Is that why there is no real motivation. Which is something the film could have used more of, just as when one character talks about her past and related it to why they are doing it. Then laughs about it so that like the joker in THE DARK KNIGHT. You are never sure if it is a story to throw the audience off and make light of it. Staying unpredictable or is there some truth in what she is saying?
The film is set in Los Angeles, but filmed in Chile which would explain why so many of the characters the few characters in this film. Speak Spanish and with heavy accents. Though then again California is known to have a heavily Spanish population also. So it is a good way to disguise it.
Because of that it made me wonder at times if the film was written in Spanish and then translated badly into English. As the film just feels constantly misdirected and confused.
The film at many time is unintentionally funny. Which for some might make the film feel more campy. As the film does feel that way from trying to make this simple premise seem like more then it is and also Keanu Reeves performance which weighs heavily in the overacting side. Which reminds one of Nicolas cage’s recent performances. (Particularly the one in THE WICKER MAN remake) it also makes me hope reeves doesn’t dip into John Cusack territory recently when it comes to films that end up not only on video on demand, but also below his usual caliber. Problem is that Keanu reeves is such a low key laid back actor. So when asked to play big. He comes off ridiculous and hilarious. Especially when trying to tell the two ladies off and how no one could gave resist. Especially when screaming a play by play of what they did. The film hits the moment of no return.
The film even tries to have a generational divide. Showing the nostalgia of having and reveling in vintage versus. The new generation and everything being electronic and at the fingertips and not really appreciating anything as like that information it is disposable. Even intentions and feelings.
By the end of the film it comes across as a weak TWILIGHT ZONE or more like TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE. he’ll even TALES FROM THE CRYPT. As it builds to a cynical humored ending. Where as through most of the film it seems to be an erotic home invasion thriller. That is building towards what you expect as far as sex and violence that never arrives and the. You hope towards the end this was all for some payoff and it ends up it wasn’t. The film feels like a build up for something more that never comes. It ends like a bad or corny joke told by a family member that you wonder. why was it even told In the first place? Especially as it seems to not only lack suspense but even terror nor a sense of horror. As even when the inevitable tables get turned. it’s never a surprise and you know that it will go back to the way it was.
Director Eli Roth tends to have his films spoiled either by previews or by the composition of his films where really only in his debut feature did the film manage to take it’s time and stay mysterious. His films now show their cards way too easily and early. I admire how each of his films seems inspired by other films or filmmakers to almost make them seperate entities. That exist in a body of work but seem to have a similar signature only designed differently. Though like this film there seems to be a lack of subtlety as it seems cards are shown quickly and way too easily. So it seems to not put up much of a challenge. Either that or to trick you and soften you up for a big reveal that never makes it’s way out. Or maybe the trump card was put down but really makes no difference to the audience.
It seems like the film could have written itself as far as it seems like the premise starts off as a porno almost. It might be as I have noticed Eli Roth tends to direct build up or scenes that don’t involve action almost as throwaway. At least that is how they are filmed and acted. Like they are filler until the good stuff. And his attention is more focused on the good stuff. As unsaid before that might be why there is a feeling of lack of surprise, as he seems to never put as much passion into the simple Setting up of characters. As much as he is in the action or scenes of the extreme. As here it seems like the whole film is set-up scenes. For all the gender politics and statements. this film could have brought forth or just be a middle aged man fantasy gone wrong like FATAL ATTRACTION, BASIC INSTINCT or a bunch of other Michael Douglas films that he seemed to excel in for a while.
It’s a shame as this seems like a throwback to the erotic thrillers of the 90’s that no one has seemed to have gotten correct. In films like DECEPTION, PERFECT STRANGERS. Here neither The ending seems to want to leave Keanu reeves as some sexist villain. Though through it all you understand his anger and behavior. So that if there was a message in falls on deaf ears. It might have been stronger if it has a reveal to justify itself. Sort of like HARD CANDY. Though here it just seems random and not in a THE STRANGERS terrifying way. It tries to make the girls seem somewhat righteous as they break him, but it still leaves an innocent victim. So that it is hard for the audience not to sympathize and not see it from his point of view. Making them seem like just two randomly crazy females who want to punishable torture men after giving into their fantasies. Plus the way the film treats the women In General. So that when Keanu reeves finally goes off. It feels like a rallying cry against women in general. Even if the film at times tries to make it seem like they were right and turn the table and make him seem despicable. Like they are two rather extreme feminists. That victim only seems here to open the film up and have it populated. As the film already takes place in one location and feels stage theatrical. The more cast members the more it seems like a theatrical film. It also allows the film to have some more violence and stakes as the film finally offers up a true innocent victim.
Also when it comes to the premise of your movie. I nor the audience should have to make up or give reasons for why certain things would work or motivation. The incoherent message it leaves is filled with blanks with very little effort to try to fill them.
The two beautiful actresses did what was required in their roles and could truly be femme fatales. If only in a better film or a different film. As they are one of the few positive things in the film that the audience will remember. As they seem silly like school girls, (and this film) but then turn dangerous (unlike this film). They come off as two Harley Quinn’s with no joker to answer to. Or likely toe girls In grown women’s bodies.
It’s a shame as this film as well as the story has so much promise and so many places it could have gone, but never does.
One of those places is this could have easily become a comedy after awhile of circumstance and expectations.
It’s a shame as I usually enjoy the work of his co-Screenwriter and producing partner Nicolas Lopez. They seem to have a regular Repertoire of actors as some of the few here I recognize from their previous collaboration AFTERSHOCK. As well as from many of Mr. Lopez’s Previous film.