If a film is called A Horrible Way To Die, you’d expect it to mainly be about dying in horrible ways. However compared to a lot of horror movies, there’s comparatively little dying in this film, and what death there is, is more of the rather unpleasant kind than the truly horrible. However, while the title is unnecessarily generic and doesn’t really match the movie itself, it doesn’t mean the film is completely without merit.
Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is a young woman trying to rebuild her life after a disastrous relationship and a descent into alcoholism. However she’s now going to AA and seems to be getting back on the right track and is even thinking of getting back in the dating game with fellow AA member Kevin (Joe Swanberg). Meanwhile vicious serial killer Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen) has escaped prison and is cutting a swathe through the local population, killing anyone who gets in his way. What will happen when his path crosses with Sarah’s?
A Horrible Way To Die obviously knows its horror/thrillers and works hard to try and avoid the worst sins of much of the generic schlock the genre continually spurts out. While many gore-fests completely dispense with characterisation and suffer for it, for much of its running time A Horrible Way To Die is as much drama as horror movie, spending time with Sarah and getting to know her as she tries to rebuild her life. It’s a strategy that’s refreshing and works well, as while some gore fans might wonder why we’re spending so much time away from the serial killer and with the presumed victim, it’s actually fairly effective as her story is interesting and it certainly makes you root for her.
However, the whole movie relies on a twist a few minutes before the end, and unfortunately while it’s actually a really neat idea, the movie somewhat bungles it with dim-witted dialogue that makes it seem more silly than clever. While it starts to pull itself back just after the big reveal, it’s almost left it too late, as the film wraps itself up surprisingly fast and never really feels like it’s pulled off its big ideas. It’s a real shame as the movie does so much right until the last 10 minutes, and with a little tweaking the twist and denouement could have been a real humdinger. It’s still not a bad film, but it ends up a lot weaker than it could have been.
However many have liked it, as it won Best Screenplay (Simon Barrett), Best Actor (AJ Bowen) and Best Actress (Amy Seimetz) at the 2010 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. They’re right about the acting, which is far better than you usually get in this sort of thing, and you can see why they’d want to reward a screenplay that tries to shake up the genre and turn things on its head, even if it doesn’t completely work.
Overall Verdict: The film starts out well but while the end is a great idea and partially works, it all ends too quickly to properly pull off its potentially brilliant big twist.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac