Saturday, November 5, 2011

She's Crushed (2009)

Like a Venus Fly Trap

This is what "Neighbor" from the same year wanted to be with a pretty, young female doing ugly things with the audience helpless, only to watch in horror. The twisted background, the lunatic motivational factor and the stark conclusion that's a sum of its parts is here instead of just making a straight set up for blood and guts. This isn't as meticulously gory but still definitely violent and gruesome when it wants to be. This isn't a film for everybody due to giving off a horrible feeling with no sympathetic/rooting characters to brace yourself on as a viewer. There's nothing positive here and if there's anything to learn it hits the message out of the park, right to your door step and with a signature of who and where it came.

A man named Ray meets a woman named Tara by chance when giving her a helping hand with a heavy item just outside of his work, only to get in trouble at his job as a result of being late. Tara is back again after work and he decides to have a drink with what looks to be an easy going and inviting woman, but then gets in trouble for other reasons with his actual girlfriend Maddy who's been pressuring him to step it up with her and also his child. He heads over to the bar and gets into a wild altercation where his past wheel-chair bound war buddy goes too far. Tara picks him up outside in a drunken stupor and brings him back to her house for a one night stand. Without remembering a thing, he sheepishly leaves, reconciles with his girlfriend about disagreements and thinks it's all past. Except Tara is not the typical love-me, leave-me type of girl. She's intensely obsessive and doesn't take Ray's snubs and defensive behavior as anything but that he'll come around to see it her way or else his life and anyone who knows him is going to be a living hell.

Natalie Dickinson, who plays Tara, takes on the sadistic, sociopathic and highly destructive role with some notable merit: some of it in the editing room with her best angles, some of it with a longer scene to carry her own. There are a few missteps where she goes from nice--as if she actually wants a relationship--to then crazy--as if she just wants to hurt others--but with the audience getting steered off track of her actual motivation. Where she's effective is one moment she's appealing to the eye, but then in the next you're hating yourself for getting lured in. After establishing Ray, this focuses on Tara and her day to day with some atmosphere in between. There are some darkly humorous lines (her victim pees herself while tied up): "Jesus, Ray, she's not even house trained." There's also some comic relief by the co-worker of Ray, Donnie (real life stand-up comedian Keith Malley), who does the resident pervert guy with a share of charming diversion.

Swedish actor Henrik Norlen has some flubs with an accent and his performance as Ray is more or less carried by the story than sticking out to make it more than it is. The character could have came with a little more conviction when opportunity knocks at his door, only deciding to hide behind the blinds as if it'll all go away by itself. In other words, this wouldn't have happened to your neighborhood "Bubba": the guy who doesn't have a problem giving a woman a lickin' and polishing his hunting rifle any chance he gets. The message seems to lie a little more so on the audience than the male character it's happening to. But that might have been the point, that Tara, who's done this before, picked him as the perfect person to use: a weaker, selfish individual that didn't look like he had the strength to turn around his life, never mind saving the day.

As an independent film without all of the means at its disposal it's not a tight and tidy experience all the way through, although a share of this does work for something that has already been done before anywhere from "Play Misty for Me" to "Audition." It mostly sticks to the basics but leaves a few head-scratching threads too open to interpretation about Tara's past relationship with her parents and a prior traumatic incident. I have to give them credit for having the film build on itself and by being able to keep the audience engaged throughout with a gradual flow. I can only imagine a share of other filmmakers would either go to the hilt too soon or be too tame for what could potentially happen. The film does have some point blank scenes that jump right into it, though it also has some various levels of uncomfortableness and use of anticipation to make the audience just as unsafe as the characters on screen. These last two don't require gore, so it was a nice little balancing trick to keep the viewer busy with other modes. It's a movie that takes a huge risk of losing its audience completely. At first it'll win the viewer over with human drama or be it morbid curiosity, then screw them over, win, then back to kicking them when down again. This turns into one dark and depressing movie as a result that's not for the viewer who's used to leaning on a hero for safety's sake.

The musical cues go from contrasting but complimentary to then conflictingly matched, such as a gruesome scene with some kind of pop number over top. Maybe they were trying to do something similar to "American Psycho" to get a vibe of the times or didn't want to make it too grim, though it can be annoyingly positive sounding. There's relating points for the beginning half that a share of us can nod our head to for hookups and relationships. Then the film turns over to make this more of a cinematic horror experience with a number of exceptional events. As the situations graduate into more extreme levels, it becomes over-the-top and doesn't feel like it could actually happen. But where it replaces a cold, hard reality, the atmosphere still feels somewhat surreal in the way events turn for the worst: like a nightmare that's never woken up from. The scenarios work within its own twisted world despite going well over the message of sleeping around with the wrong person and being an unappreciative, unproductive person in general. If this is pouring salt in the wound, then Ray's character got buried in a suffocating, inescapable tomb of it. "Next time things will be different" isn't a phrase that's uttered here.

Rating: 6.5/10

Director: Patrick Johnson (SideFX)
Stars: Natalie Dickinson, Henrik Norlen, Caitlin Wehrle, Keith Malley, Robert Paschall Jr.
Link: IMDB

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