Monday, November 7, 2011

Knife Edge (2009)

Trying to live the quaint life can be murder

This British film is more of a mystery/thriller than a horror in the modern day with excessive gore and sex to titillate. It attempts to tell an old fashioned tale that focuses on primal human emotions such as betrayal, revenge and greed with a backdrop of the supernatural. Then it takes on relating points, such as obligations to your job and family with others trying to step in the middle of your progress and happiness for their own selfish gain.

A successful woman named Emma with a sixth sense in the New York stock exchange leaves it all behind to move to an English manor with her French husband Henri and her boy Thomas. She's recently pregnant and life is going extremely well at first, till she gets random, murderous visions and a pain in her abdomen. Her husband loses a business deal and runs into money trouble. He goes to her shady, drug using brother for a loan as he doesn't want Emma to worry about the bills of their new mansion. This is despite her not feeling welcome there anyway by a series of unexplainable nightmares and what-was-that noises. Her son has an imaginary friend named Tobias that might be more linked to the past of the house than the inventive mind of a bored kid.

A share of the interactions turn over to be tediously melodramatic as she starts to become erratic from both the enormous house with nothing to do inside and the strange happenings, along with her thought to be nice husband starting to lash out from getting stressed at work and home. This attempts to shift between if it's real or not, but instead of balancing out both sides equally to be intriguing like a good mystery should it can feel like a string along. The answers to the drama portion are often easily solvable--move, get a hobby, go back to work, honest communication, live less extravagantly--as the characters are hardly given enough pressing circumstances to truly feel trapped to their current situation or the viewer challenged enough to get enraptured/lost to their problems. But then, of course, money is the root of all evil and not many can go back from already having a bulk of it. The title character confides in her family and close friends with some being genuine but others posing as wolves in sheep's clothing.

Trying to cram all of the various threads into an hour and a half time frame didn't do a service to the viewer. The result is some of the revelations are too far fetched with one too many coincidences, though I can imagine if it was in novel form it could have been a diverting yarn without time constraints and with smoother transitions to suspend disbelief. It's still imaginative and attempts to be steadily engaging, but the execution wasn't always put together in a very entertaining order and manner. It feels like a fleeting television feature, despite this being the long awaited darker tale from Anthony "Waxwork"/"Sundown" Hickox after having a share of run ins with the action genre. For one, this has too quick of a pacing for its own good. The movie moves so rapidly at times as to breeze over building up an enclosing atmosphere. Though the camera seems to move just as much as the characters do with a share of panning crane and hand held shots that manage to give this a certain style. The house jumps right into doing odd things before a setup is even established around it to give it a shadowy personality. Not to mention Emma's special abilities of seeing events before they happen is stated in a random piece of dialogue to a new comer but doesn't smooth into establishing credibility; then it's oddly forgotten for a period and blamed on other circumstances.

It looks to be a clear cut case of botched editing but a share of this is a misstep in direction and a combination of being rushed, with the former salvaging what was left. The direction seems to over emphasize points but even then still not make sense or adequately express emotions, such as an extended stare/odd look or a line stated but then dropped by a closing scene. Some revelations take too long to come out to the point of losing focus or interest, and then others can be explained too quickly to lose impact. Some of the minor transitions between scenes aren't always flush, such as a character's demeanor/position slightly jumping around from an action just before it. In areas it feels exactly like they filmed it at different times. Even the performances come in and out of going from lively, overreaching, to just plain stiff or not accommodating a certain written line to themselves. Both the leading actors, Natalie Press and Matthieu Boujenah, have performances that fall in and out to the point of being unconnective to their situation and who they are. Hugh Bonneville, although without that much screen time, gives the most credible and consistent performance as the cheery friend of the family with another side to him. Joan Plowright, as the nanny, believably fits the bill and has a dual screen presence that you're never too sure about.

In theory, this shouldn't have been as lackluster as it turned out. I'd imagine reading the filled to the brim script, seeing the larger than life locations and hearing the enthusiasms of the filmmakers to do something slightly different in the modern day would have sold it beforehand. There's definitely potential here. Though "Knife Edge" is a film that frequently requires the viewer to compensate for lack thereof and mistimings. A portion of the performances, character motivations and even certain dialogue have too many areas where it feels forced and distracting. The story doesn't always maintain charging power and the characters don't always feel credible as a result.

Rating: 3.5/10

From Black to Red recommends instead: "The Others." This is a atmospheric drama/horror film that follows an English family who lives in a large house just after WWII that carries a dark past.

Director: Anthony Hickox (Waxwork, Sundown, Hellraiser III)
Stars: Natalie Press, Matthieu Boujenah, Hugh Bonneville, Joan Plowright, Tamsin Egerton
Link: IMDB

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