Rack Focus: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Flipping the serial killer story into a character-driven study of lost lives, Adam Wingard's A Horrible Way to Die is a slow burning, atmospheric thriller that uses mood over effects to convey its misery and horror.
The story follows Sarah (Amy Seimetz), a mousey young woman battling alcoholism and the memories of a troublesome past relationship. Content to hide her feelings within, Sarah still forges a tepid relationship with Kevin (Joe Swamberg), a young man she's met during AA meetings. In the meantime, we're also introduced to Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen) an escaped murderer with a media following, whose path is destined to cross Sarah's. Simon Barrett's slow burn script fragments the parallel plotlines of Sarah and Garrick, scrambling time so that their pasts clash with their present, and careen towards that inevitable meeting.
|A discovery of truth|
Wingard has taken more than a notice of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, subduing much of the violence to glimpses of the results of Garrick's nasty work, and then peppering in some on screen gore to build tension. The imagery (by cinematographers Chris Hilleke and Mark Shelhorse), as well reflects the muted landscapes of Henry, but is also as inviting, at times, as it is depressing. The images change focus and meander (sometimes to the point of tediousness), never letting the viewer get quite settles in.
However, unlike Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, A Horrible Way to Die doesn't feel quite as fully realized. The performances are beautifully tempered and impressive -- especially Seimetz, who is completely convincing with her downward gaze and hurried, obliging smile -- but the mumblecore mood, which works better for dramas, doesn't create the necessary tension for the thriller inside this movie to truly breakout.
|Experiencing the truth|