A Horrible Way To Die (2010)

So many films so little time...Sometimes I wish I didn't have a real day job. I'd be able to watch all the small films when they are released rather than lets say, 3 years later like this one. But alas, the mortgage company likes to get paid, so here we are taking a look at Adam Wingard's A Horrible Way to Die...finally.

Having already made waves with his super indie feature Pop Skull (by super indie, I mean the budget for it was only 2000 dollars - wrap your thoughts around that for a while), director Adam Wingard took a bigger budget and a larger vision into his next film, A Horrible Way To Die. Weaving three different stories and two distinct timelines into one cohesive narrative is challenging for any director, especially a relative neophyte like Wingard. Does he pull it off? Or wilt under the pressure?

Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is a recovering alcoholic. She regularly attends meetings and avoids situations in which she might be tempted to drink. Timid she avoids talking about her own situation, instead taking comfort int he successes of others. She catches the eye of Kevin (Joe Swanberg), another program member who, like Sarah is struggling with his own addiction. They begin hanging out. Like all new relationships, it's beginnings are awkward. But with their unspoken bond they grow close quickly. Sarah shares everything with Kevin. Everything that is, except that her ex-boyfriend Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen), is the nations most notorious serial killer.

Turrell for his part, has just engineered a rather brazen escape from prison and is slashing his way across the country quickly making his way back to Sarah. That's not to say he's a heartless, cold killer. Turrell is a different kind of animal. He's very self aware.  He's repentant. He apologizes to his victims repeatedly. Of course, he then slits their throats, so take the apologies for what you will.

As the two stories converge, Wingard intercuts moments form the final days of Sarah and Garricks relationship. It begins with her thinking he is cheating and ends up with her standing in a storage locker surrounded by dead bodies. That journey in itself almost feels like it needs its own film.

A Horrible Way To Die is simply one of the best films I've seen in a long time. Wingard proves a master at building tension all while keeping you uneasy while flipping back between the three disparate stories. The twist at the end is rather obvious to any horror fan who is used to looking for those things, but is still very well executed, you forget that it's not that great. The three leads, Seimetz, Bowen and Swanberg are tremendous. In the hands of lesser actors working with a lesser director, the complicated journeys the characters go on (especially Sarah and Garrick) would have seemed hammy and unbelievable. But they keep the film grounded in a sense of reality that it really needs at certain points.

One brief note of caution: if you are not a fan of the handheld shaky can thing, you might not be into this as much as I was. I'm not a huge fan, but when used like this, it adds a layer of realism to the story that a something shot in a traditional way would be lacking. Other than that....see this film!

****1/2 out of *****

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