Tag Archives: thriller

White of the Eye

White of the Eye

Format: Blu-ray + DVD

Release date: 31 March 2014

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Donald Cammell

Writers: Donald Cammell, China Cammell

Based on the novel by: Margaret Tracy

Original title: Ningen jôhatsu

Cast: David Keith, Cathy Moriarty, Mike Desantos, Art Evans

USA 1987

110 mins

Despite having made only four films, not all of them completed to his satisfaction, Donald Cammell has left a substantial legacy. Performance (1970), co-directed with Nicolas Roeg, has entered rock history, thanks to Mick Jagger, who was probably channelling the late Brian Jones, and definitely sleeping with co-star Anita Pallenberg, Keith Richards’s girlfriend. Cammell’s only other film that decade was Demon Seed (1977), an occasionally effective adaptation of a Dean Koontz sci-fi/horror novel that disappointed anyone looking for another Performance. His next film, the psycho-thriller White of the Eye, appeared in 1987. After seeing his final movie Wild Side (which starred Christopher Walken, Joan Chen and Anne Heche) heavily re-edited by the producers, Cammell committed suicide in 1995.

Of his four films, only Demon Seed and White of the Eye were released in Cammell’s intended form, and it’s probably no coincidence that they are his most traditional, accessible efforts. Cammell left behind a long list of abandoned projects; his only other commercial releases are a handful of short films and a little-seen music video for U2’s hit single ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’.

Like most psycho-thrillers, White of the Eye begins with a murder, as a wealthy woman is followed back to her isolated home in the Tucson desert and slain by an unseen stranger. Unlike most similar films, Cammell shows us very little in the way of bloody violence, although there’s no doubt what’s happening. Instead he concentrates on the chaos caused by the assault: a wine bottle smashes, a glass leaks its contents across the work surface, fresh flowers fall to the floor, a cooking pot shatters (spilling the only blood shown in the scene). The two murders are bloodless but make a notable impact thanks to Cammell’s careful use of violence and a handful of memorably surreal images, like a goldfish splashing about in a cooking pot . In the light of later events, one moment in particular seems oddly prescient: a dying victim observes her own death throes in a hand mirror (according to some accounts, after shooting himself Cammell asked for a mirror to see the self-inflicted wounds).

From there White of the Eye moves into standard police procedural territory, as detectives match tyre tracks found at the scene of one of the murders to (among others) local resident Paul White, played by David Keith. White lives with his wife Joan (Cathy Moriarty) and daughter Danielle and makes a living as a sound engineer, fitting high-end amplifiers and sound systems for his wealthy neighbours. Keith and Moriarty are both excellent and contribute greatly to the overall impact of the movie. Unfortunately they can do little to remedy the film’s major defect: pacing. After the blitz attack of the first murder, White of the Eye settles into a slow-moving groove that robs the material of any real sense of urgency or danger, even when Paul is being questioned by the police. A subplot about Paul’s infidelity becomes essential to the narrative later on, but at the time those scenes drag heavily. It’s not until the second murder that Cammell begins to pick up the pace, having spent the first hour setting up the characters and situations in preparation for the film’s hectic final act.

Despite the pacing problems, White of the Eye has strong points, not least Keith and Moriarty’s credible, convincing performances. On a visual and audio level the film consistently impresses, whether it’s the choreographed chaos of the first murder or the way the camera glides over the abandoned quarries and pits that make up the distinctive Arizona wilderness. Although the Arizona landscape is largely man-made, the angular and bright white buildings look utterly out of place against that background. The same applies to Cammell’s characters. It’s a thoroughly incongruous setting for the trappings of 1980s culture, whether it’s the high-tech sound equipment Paul works with or the faintly ludicrous perms and high heels the residents wear. The image is reinforced by Nick Mason’s score, which mixes the atmospheric psychedelia of 1970s Pink Floyd with Rick Fenn’s restrained but evocative slide guitar, hovering on the boundary between blues and rock.

Casual viewers might find themselves frustrated by Cammell’s initial lack of interest in plot and suspense, but White of the Eye does reward patience, even if the end results don’t reach the same level as Michael Mann’s Manhunter, released less than 12 months previously.

Jim Harper

In Order of Disappearance

In Order of Disappearance
In Order of Disappearance

Format: Cinema

Release date: 12 September 2014

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Hans Petter Moland

Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson

Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Kristofer Hivju, Bruno Ganz

Original title: Kraftidioten

Norway, Sweden, Denmark 2014

115 mins

Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) doesn’t talk much. A snowplough driver by profession, and recently elected as the community’s ‘Man of the Year’, he’s more the kind of guy who skips the chitchat and gets right to the action – especially if he is upset, or angry, or both. And when his son suddenly dies of a heroin overdose, he is devastated and opts to take revenge.

His urge for personal vengeance soon becomes a dangerous threat not only for the gangsters responsible for his son’s death, who wrongly believed him to be engaged in a spurious drug scam. Rather, in the course of his investigations, he also shakes up the frosty relationship between the Norwegian drug Mafia and their Serbian opponents, which inevitably leads to a big showdown at Nils’s depot. To reveal much more of the story would take the fun out of Moland’s droll and deftly crafted crime thriller, but rest assured that the number of characters drops quickly once Nils gets into the flow of things.

Although the filmmaking is assured and the pace correspondingly brisk, keeping in line with its hero’s spirit, there is no denying that Moland reworks a well-tested formula here, which places his playful slice of Nordic noir at risk of running idle. He occasionally tries too hard to exploit the winning (and sometimes worrisome) simple-mindedness of some of the villains, while the initially amusing structure of the film (each death on screen is marked with an intertitle of a cross and the victim’s name) somewhat looses momentum towards the end. But you have to give it to Skarsgård for keeping a perfectly straight face throughout, while Moland makes excellent use of the crisp, snowy landscape that, as ever, serves as an appropriate setting for a staggering war of revenge.

Pamela Jahn

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The Counsellor

The Counsellor
The Counsellor

Format: Cinema

Release date: 15 November 2013

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Cormac McCarthy

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz

USA 2013

117 mins

The strange saga of Ridley Scott’s The Counsellor is one of this year’s most perplexing. Shielded from the critics by its studio until the eleventh hour, The Counsellor is an authentic film maudit – a cursed film, spluttering on the fumes of its own demise.

Looking at the pedigree of the talent involved, and the oddly subdued damp squib that they eventually turned out, it’s a weirdly gratifying task figuring out exactly how it all went wrong. Let’s start with the script: it’s the first screenplay by the great American novelist Cormac McCarthy, whose pitiless desert landscapes and gallows humour are intensely cinematic. The film came together quickly, with the most bankable A-list names attached, and the unflappable, prolific Scott to direct (although it seems like a more natural project for his late brother Tony, to whom the film is dedicated). And as for the finished project? Well, it’s a confused, violent clusterfuck, profoundly strange in a way that can only be made by very talented, but very distracted people.

The Chinese finger trap of a plot plays out on the Tex-Mex border, juxtaposing the high-flying magnates profiting off the illegal drug trade against the squalor and the aggression of the cartels. Michael Fassbender is the Counsellor, unnamed like a classic existentialist anti-hero, yet in a surely not-so-classic film. For some obscure reason, given his obvious success as a crooked lawyer, he gets involved in a high-stakes drug deal with almost unlimited financial potential, aided by debonair criminals Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt). Lurking hawk-like on the sidelines is Malkina (Cameron Diaz), Reiner’s scheming girlfriend. Needless to say, there’s a sting in the tail, and the whole transaction goes to hell, with devastating consequences for everyone. Yet despite Malkina’s interference, the real source of the menace behind the deal’s unravelling hovers mostly ambient and depersonalised, bearing down on its sorry victims with God-against-Job mercilessness.

Although The Counsellor is not an unqualified success by any stretch of the imagination, if you squint ever so slightly, and consider the very accomplished and playful elements that make up the film, it just about looks like a good one. No Country for Old Men, the most successful McCarthy film thus far, was a searing thriller with a dark heart – an exhilarating downer. The Counsellor, in contrast, plays its most disturbing elements for an almost-camp shock value, inflating the film to the level of cruel, crude black comedy (a bit like the Coens at their worst). The characterisations are ridiculous and acted to the absolute hilt, with Javier Bardem looking like a flail-spiked pop-punk front man in a Hawaiian shirt, and Cameron Diaz (oh so terrible) in full Cheetah regalia with two-tone black-blonde hair and leopard spot tattoos. Brad Pitt, decked out in a Southern-gentleman cowboy hat and tails, fares a little better; he’s the only one that seems to fully get the jazziness of McCarthy’s dialogue, and is thus able to inject some genuine menace and charisma, as he has done so brilliantly in his more serious recent roles, such as his parts for director Andrew Dominik.

The trajectory of the story is most obviously a cautionary tale, a modern and drug-flecked variation on the tale of the ‘forbidden fruit’: ‘Don’t err, or be prepared to suffer’. But the film is too in love with its depraved sensibility, and too eager to push the audience’s buttons, to make that nostrum fully convincing. We’ve paid our money to see carnage, and that is what we get, with no sense of real redemption, apart from those willing to recognise that the game has always been rigged. Maybe the unwillingness to provide any respite for the audience’s sympathies makes The Counsellor quite radical for an expensive, mainstream-oriented thriller. Ultimately though, after a strong initial build-up, with plenty of terse exchanges and foreshadowing, everything detonates, moral standards crumble, the Counsellor weeps, and my, it is not pretty.

David Katz

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Format: DVD

Release date: 26 September 2005

Distributor: Filmgalerie 451

Director: Roland Klick

Writer: Roland Klick

Cast: Mario Adorf, Marquard Bohm, Anthony Dawson, Mascha Elm Rabben, Sigurd Fitzek, Betty Segal

West Germany 1970

85 mins

A young man named Kid, in a dusty two-piece suit and with a bullet wound in his arm, walks across an astoundingly stark and shimmering desert carrying a metal suitcase and a machine gun. After collapsing from exhaustion, his body is eventually discovered by Mr. Dump who opens the suitcase to find a vinyl 45-inch single and a pile of stolen money. His initial plan is to take the money and run, until Kid gains consciousness and forces Mr. Dump at gunpoint to take him with him and remove the bullet from his arm.

Mr. Dump reluctantly drives them back to his refuge, a desolate and squalid mining town whose only other occupants are Mr. Dump’s deranged and psychotic wife and their mute, feral daughter. Refusing to remove the bullet from Kid’s arm, a power struggle between the two men ensues as Mr. Dump desperately tries to exploit the situation for his own means. That is until the mysterious Mr. Sunshine arrives to split the cash and settle old scores. As night turns into day, the situation increasingly escalates towards unhinged paranoia and extreme violence, with any chance of hope obscured by blood, dust and the intrusion of bleak reality.

Although Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970) may have taken its cue from Spaghetti Westerns and classic American crime movies, it’s also fair to say – like the best cult movies of the 1970s – that it takes place within a universe of its own making. Much like Kaneto Shindō’s Onibaba (1964), its small cast of tormented and tormenting characters never leave the confines of their isolated location, with very little indication of an outside world. It’s almost as if a group of classic archetypes have broken free from their own movies and found themselves lost within the last film at the edge of the earth.

Klick uses the sparse surroundings of Israel’s Negev desert to great effect, creating a crumbling portrait of arid decay and brutal, unforgiving desperation. His inventive framing and overtly stylistic compositions give the film a dreamlike quality – with the occasional moment of controlled psychedelic surrealism – without bubbling over into nonsensical self-indulgence. Add to this the superb film score by Krautrock legends Can and you’ve got yourself an incredibly unique and unforgettable piece of German cinema. In fact, the way in which Klick lets the Can track ‘Tango Whiskey Man’ slowly imbed itself into the narrative (it’s the single hidden in the suitcase with the money) is one of the clever touches that gives the film a certain charm.

Despite Klick’s ambitious experimentalism, he never gets sidetracked and thankfully refuses to neglect certain genre expectations, with a plot and place that’s as firm and gritty as the landscape on which it takes place. A thrilling, entertaining and distinctive example of B-movie pragmatism delivered with artistic scope.

Robert Makin

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Eyes of the Spider / Serpent’s Path

Eyes of the Spider1
Eyes of the Spider

Format: DVD

Release date: 9 September 2013

Distributor: Third Window Films

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Title: Eyes of the Spider (Kumo no Hitomi)

Writers: Kiyoshi Kurosawa Yoichi Nishiyama

Cast: Sh&#333 Aikawa, Dankan Ren Ohsugi, Shun Sugeta

Title: Serpent’s Path (Hebi no Michi)

Writer: Hiroshi Takahashi

Cast: Sh&#333 Aikawa, Teruyuki Kagawa, Y&#363rei Yanagi

Japan 1998

83 & 85 mins

Despite his status as one of Japan’s most talented and consistently interesting directors, a great many of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films have yet to see an English-language release. Most of the neglected titles come from before the release of Cure, the 1997 psycho-thriller that made the director a key figure on the international film scene. Like many of his contemporaries, the young Kurosawa started out directing erotic films for Nikkatsu’s well-established ‘Roman Porno’ (romantic pornography) line, before branching out into other areas, including an effects-driven haunted house movie (Sweet Home, 1989), a superior slasher movie (The Guard from the Underground, 1992) and a number of made-for-TV horror films, comedies and yakuza thrillers.

Serpent’s Path and Eyes of the Spider were both filmed in 1997, shortly after Cure was completed. Although not sequels in the traditional sense, the two films are linked by central concepts and casting, with both films starring Sh&#333 Aikawa, at the time a major star of the V-cinema or direct-to-video scene. Many of Kurosawa’s early films, including Serpent’s Path and Eyes of the Spider, were V-cinema movies, and he credits his time working in the field with providing valuable experience and affording an opportunity to experiment with a variety of different film genres. Serpent’s Path is one of these experiments; following its completion Kurosawa reworked the script, shifted the focus of the piece and turned it into Eyes of the Spider.

Written by Ring scriptwriter Hiroshi Takahashi, Serpent’s Path begins with two men – Nijima, a schoolteacher (Sh&#333 Aikawa) and Miyashita (Teruyuki Kagawa), an ex-yakuza – kidnapping a third (former comedian Y&#363rei Yanagi) and chaining him to a wall in an abandoned factory. Miyashita explains the reason for the kidnapping: he believes their hostage is responsible for the abduction and murder of his 8-year-old daughter. Naturally the man protests his innocence, but his protestations are ignored. After being forced to eat off the floor and denied the use of toilet facilities, the hostage eventually says that he knows who really murdered Miyashita’s daughter.

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In Eyes of the Spider Sh&#333 Aikawa stars as another man called Nijima, although a different character this time. The film starts with him murdering the man who killed his daughter. From this point, Nijima’s life begins to unravel, as his marriage collapses and he ends up working for the yakuza. Throughout all this, the man seems to be almost sleepwalking, as if killing his daughter’s murderer has left him with nothing to live for.

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Serpent’s Path and Eyes of the Spider were both shot in Kurosawa’s typically understated style, using long takes and a minimum of camera movements. Neither of these films are traditional revenge thrillers, and Kurosawa’s purpose here is to explore the differing effects that achieving vengeance can have upon an individual. There are some last minute revelations, but these are not Hollywood-style twists, merely factors designed to shed new light on the events that have taken place. Kurosawa’s interest here is not in complex plots but in characters, something that has been a trademark of many of his films. Devotees of the director’s work will find these two films an interesting insight into Kurosawa’s early career, another glimpse into the background of a unique filmmaker. Those unfamiliar with Kurosawa’s films are probably better off starting with either Cure or the terrifying Pulse (2001), before investigating Serpent’s Path and Eyes of the Spider, although there is still plenty to enjoy here.

Jim Harper

A Hijacking

A Hijacking

Format: Cinema

Release date: 10 May 2013

Distributor: Arrow Films

Director: Tobias Lindholm

Writer: Tobias Lindholm

Cast: Pilou Asb&#230k, S&#248ren Malling, Dar Salim, Abdihakin Asgar

Original title: Kapringen

Denmark 2012

99 mins

An impressive sophomore effort from Tobias Lindholm, A Hijacking tells the story of a Danish cargo ship taken over by Somali pirates, and the efforts to negotiate a peaceful and non-violent end to the affair by those back in Copenhagen.

Lindholm is an incredibly accomplished writer, having penned Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, this year’s breakout hit and a 2012 Cannes award winner, 2010’s under-the-radar Submarino (also directed by Vinterberg), as well as a number of episodes of the popular political drama Borgen. Donning both the screenwriter and director’s caps, the Dane has delivered on the promise he displayed with his hard-hitting prison drama debut, 2010’s R.

Although the title of his new release might suggest an adrenaline-rush ride, the reality is a little more refined: switching from the ship to the negotiations back in Denmark, the plot racks up incredible tension, ably supported by actors who never overplay their hand. As the ship’s cook, Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asb&#230k) brings restrained pathos to the role – with a wife and a young daughter back home in Denmark, he has more to lose than most of the other men on board. On the other side of the coin is Omar, (Abdihakin Asgar), who negotiates for the lives of these men with the CEO of the shipping company, Peter (played to mild-mannered perfection by S&#248ren Malling), who ignores the advice of the consultant and jumps into the situation with both feet.

Lindberg is audacious in his refusal to portray the hijacking – he doesn’t even stage the actual event, preferring to cut back to the ship after all the excitement is over. However, this should not be read as a negative comment – if anything, the audience is kept in the same position as the shipping company, the tension increasing tenfold as we learn exactly what happened during the hijacking.

The plight of the men is harrowing. As days pile up on days and the mood turns sour, they try to survive, lacking even the most basic comforts a human being can expect. Again, Lindholm never creates a false tragedy, a Hollywood-style emotional manipulation. Instead, he lets the scenario play through to its logical conclusion, involving the audience throughout the characters’ development.

Quietly, the impressive cinematography works to create beautiful contrasts between the ship and the offices in Copenhagen, while the sound is sparse but effective. All in all, A Hijacking is one of the most involving and well-written films to come out this year and is highly recommended to anyone looking for intelligent thrills.

Evrim Ersoy

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Point Blank

Point Blank
Point Blank

Format: Cinema

Release date: 29 March 2013

Venues: Key cities

Distributor: BFI

Director: John Boorman

Writers: Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse, Rafe Newhouse

Based on the novel The Hunter by: Donald E. Westlake (aka Richard Stark)

Cast: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn

USA 1967

92 mins

Walker (Lee Marvin) is out for revenge after a robbery ends with his friend double-crossing him, leaving him for dead and running off with his wife and the stolen money. It is a classic plot that could easily be an Anthony Mann Western or a Fritz Lang film noir. And yet Point Blank (1967) can be seen as heralding a turning point in Hollywood cinema, which was to lead to the innovative filmmaking of the 1970s and beyond.

While the 60s were marked by a great creative upheaval and experimentation seemed the order of the day, from the ‘new waves’ in France and Czechoslovakia to the American underground cinema, Hollywood remained resistant to these forces for change. The classical Hollywood ‘invisible’ style, with all elements of filmmaking subservient to the narrative, still dominated – The Sound of Music was the biggest hit of 1965 and more big-budget musicals were planned. The director knew he had done a good job if you didn’t notice his work. That an audience could watch and admire the cool stylish direction as well as follow the plot was an idea that only occurred to Hollywood execs at the very end of the decade – the pivotal year of 1969 when the huge failure of those big-budget musicals and the success of films like Easy Rider (1969) forced the industry to reevaluate its approach.

Point Blank was conceived as a vehicle for that unlikely star, Lee Marvin, who somehow became box-office gold in the mid-60s. After years of great scene-stealing performances as the bad guy in such classics as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Big Heat (1953) and The Wild One (1953), Marvin seemed to dodge his destined ‘Hey It’s That Guy’ status and found his moment had come.

He inherited the taciturn tough guy roles that John Wayne was too ill to play and took the type to new extremes of meanness. The dark side that lurks inside the Western or noir hero is out in the open in his role as a sociopathic hit man in Point Blank. He even fights dirtier, smashing bottles into faces and punching in the nuts. He is the American individualist – one man against ‘The Organisation’. His enemy has similarly evolved from the scheming cattle barons and corrupt mayors of the Western and noir to a business corporation that has no understanding of revenge or debts of honour. ‘Profit is the only principle,’ its bosses tell Walker. When he asks for his money he is told simply, ‘No business corporation in the world would acknowledge a debt of that kind’. The Hollywood hero struggles manfully on as the modern world throws up unimagined impediments.

It was Marvin who wanted to hire young hip Swinging London director John Boorman; and Marvin again who protected him from studio interference. Boorman – whose previous film (his debut) was the Dave Clark Five movie Catch Us If You Can (1965), a visually inventive and often brilliant mix of Richard Lester wackiness and kitchen sink realism – seems an odd choice for a gritty noir. He brings a range of innovations rarely seen in a mainstream Hollywood thriller, playing with a variety of styles borrowed from underground and art-house directors such as Stan Brakhage and Alain Resnais. The rampaging Walker smashes bottles bath oils that swirl around the plughole like psychedelic projections. Marvin and Angie Dickinson appear in separate fragments of a smashed mirror. But he uses those techniques to further the plot and add psychological depth without slowing the pace of the thriller and maintains the clarity of the Hollywood narrative. The inventive flashbacks (disturbing matches on action) show the character haunted by his memories, and yet temporal disorientation is minimised by an ingenious device – the earlier the flashback, the less grey there is in Lee Marvin’s hair.

Despite the stylish direction, Point Blank, just like Catch Us If You Can, is not a film that celebrates the 60s. For a film set and shot in LA and San Francisco in 1967 it is pretty dour. Even the groovy night club is peopled by slimy middle-aged balding executives singing a call and response with the resident soul band – it is like a scene cut from an ugly version of Mad Men. The 60s California we get here is one of leering used-car salesmen vainly listening to their own radio commercials, corrupt politicians and corporate lawyers.

The desire of stars like Lee Marvin and Steve McQueen to make voguish, cooler-looking films led the studios to bring in European (well, British) directors. Through films like Point Blank and Peter Yates’s commercially successful Bullitt (1968), Hollywood gradually began to appreciate that audiences may enjoy seeing exciting filmmaking even if it drew attention to the artifice of cinema.

Paul Huckerby

Double Take: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Format: Cinema

Release date: 30 April 2010

Venue: Vue West End (London) and nationwide

Distributor: Cinema NX Distribution

Director: J Blakeson

Writer: J Blakeson

Cast: Gemma Aterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan

UK 2009

100 mins

J Blakeson’s feature debut is a taut, low-budget British thriller about two men, Danny and Vic, who kidnap a young woman named Alice. As they wait for the ransom, locked together in a small flat, tension mounts and details emerge about who they are. The relationship between the three characters develops in unexpected directions as they all try to manipulate the situation to their advantage. Below, Pamela Jahn and Virginie Sélavy discuss the film and what it shows about current British filmmaking.

Pamela Jahn: What I liked about the film is that, for what it was, a hostage story, it was pretty tight and well performed. But there were some twists that were beyond plausibility, and I thought it started more strongly than it played out in the end.

Virginie Sélavy: The way that some of the revelations about the characters were brought on showed that the plot was weak. They just felt like a cop-out, like a way out of the plot that Blakeson had built. They weren’t really justified in any way and were quite unconvincing as a result.

PJ: The opening scenes where Danny and Vic set up the kidnapping and take Alice to the flat were really tense and really good. You don’t know the motivations behind Danny’s weird behaviour at first.

VS: That’s true, the beginning is excellent because it’s very sparse, it doesn’t explain anything. The two men are very purposeful and they are brutal without hurting her, which is very unsettling and very effective. You don’t quite understand what’s going on.

PJ: But then I found the first twist laughable. Alice’s reaction wasn’t worked out properly.

VS: I expected the film to be cleverer, but in the end what you have is yet another film that focuses on a female victim who is stripped naked and humiliated, but is not smart enough to get herself out of the situation. Although she is constantly trying things, she doesn’t make anything happen - everything happens outside of her control. That annoyed me, and I know this is partly to do with my own expectations, but I don’t think you can have just another female victim film without having a little bit of a twist, so that she’s more than that.

PJ: Yes, I totally agree, but given the fact that she is under so much pressure I think that at least it’s realistic. I thought her character was convincing in the way that she tries to get out of her situation.

VS: But did you think that she was an interesting female character?

PJ: No.

VS: That’s my point. Danny is probably the most interesting character because he’s manipulative and complex and you can’t quite figure him out, whereas she just reacts to situations. She’s a very passive type of character. I expected more of a battle of wits, which I don’t think you really get.

PJ: What annoyed me more was that it became predictable, that I could actually foresee the end. In terms of the characters, I thought what was interesting is that Danny seems weak at the beginning and he turns out to be quite strong. And even though I didn’t have as much of a problem with Alice as you, I think it’s a bit of a shame that Blakeson did not put more effort into creating her character. He does concentrate on the two guys and their relationship a lot more, but she’s just the victim, she doesn’t have to be anything other than that.

VS: I think the other problem in the film is the way information is revealed.

PJ: It’s quite clumsy.

VS: Yes. I always remember what Hitchcock said about suspense and surprise, and in this film Blakeson went for surprise. If he had given his audience more information about the characters, he would have been able to create much more effective tension by making the audience aware of what is being played out in front of them. That said, the relationship between the two men is better dealt with, there is a more interesting power struggle between them.

PJ: Absolutely. That’s because Blakeson keeps things simple - one location, three characters - it’s a different sort of tension that keeps the film together and makes it enjoyable.

VS: I did find it enjoyable in spite of my reservations. I think for a first feature film with a very low budget, they did well. The kidnapping set-up was a good idea to justify the one location, which is so important to keep the budget down. But the problem I have with it, and in that respect it made me think of Exam, which is also a one-room low-budget British thriller, is that these new directors try to make films that they can sell, and as a result I think that there is something a bit formulaic about them. Ultimately, they are fairly empty films because they don’t really have much to say. They seem to make a film for the sake of it, rather than because they have something to say or show. But maybe this is a step for those first-time directors towards making the film they really want to make - I hope so.

PJ: One of the reasons for this might have to do with the funding. They have to show that they can make a film within a tiny budget that looks good and is saleable and not too controversial.

VS: Yes, the funding is the problem. Of course you have to be realistic when you make your first film, but you have to have a story to tell, not just a narrative device that is a pretext to make a film.

PJ: They may not be empty, but they’re flat. A lot of these films pretend to be interesting but they’re not thought through properly. In both films, there are probably one or two twists too many, which keep the audience going, but are too obvious.

VS: You could have done something more interesting with the power games in this scenario, but Blakeson doesn’t really explore that deeply enough. The film doesn’t tell you anything of substance about the dynamics of power in this triangle, because of all those twists.

PJ: In terms of the performances, I thought Eddie Marsan was the best one. He’s totally convincing as Vic, the older kidnapper, and I can take all the plot twists that involve him because of his performance. I think the performances carry the plot to a certain extent. Whenever the plot weakens, there is still a fantastic quality to the acting and it keeps you interested to the end.

Pamela Jahn and Virginie Sélavy