zero (out of 5)
July 13, 2007
Elisha Cuthbert as JENNIFER
Daniel Gillies as GARY
Pruitt Taylor Vince as BEN
Michael Harney as BETTINGER
Laz Alonso as DI SANTOS
Studio: After Dark Films
Directed by: Roland Joffé
BY KEVIN CARR
The entire time I was watching “Captivity,” I kept wanting to jump up and yell at the screen, “Okay! Enough is enough.” Seriously, I never thought I’d say this, but this movie gives torture porn a bad name.
Now I’m not going to jump on the anti-torture porn bandwagon because I have found some of the films entertaining, interesting and even innovative. In particular, the “Saw” films worked for what they were, and I thought that “Hostel: Part II” took the new disturbing genre to a relatively high level (although pretty much the rest of America disagrees with me on that).
But “Captivity” has reached a new low in a genre that thrives on scraping the bottom of the barrel. It brings a new meaning to crap, using about as much finesse as a virgin on his first date.
The film follows a shallow yet beautiful model named Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert). She’s indifferent to her charmed life and is barely able to manage working every day (like the rest of us losers in society). Her boyfriend is blowing her off, and her only friend is her bichon frise Suzy.
One night at a charity benefit, a stalker slips a sedative in her drink and kidnaps her out of a crowded night club. She wakes up a captive in a dirty basement. Over the next few days, she’s routinely tortured and tormented with no explanation or identification by her kidnappers. Her only hope for survival and sanity is Gary (Daniel Gillies), a man held captive in the room next door.
“Captivity” first grabbed public attention when the advertisers posted graphic imagery on a high-profile billboard in Los Angeles. If you’ve seen the billboard, it’s hard to argue that while it would be fine in the pages of “Fangoria,” it really wasn’t acceptable for roadside advertising.
This advertising debacle led me to think we’d have a tour de force of violence and gore in the film. However, like so many copycat horror directors have been doing lately, the violent scenes are awkwardly dropped in the film to shock but carries no real impact for the film.
For a new low in the genre, “Captivity” misses its mark and by the most part is overly mundane and dull. Don’t get me wrong. There are scenes that will turn your stomach, including a guy getting battery acid pumped through his sinuses and Elisha Cuthbert being forced to drink a frappe cocktail of human body parts. However these scenes are just stuffed into the film with no style and no real pertinence to the plot.
Unlike other films of this genre, it’s not directed by some young upstart like James Wan or a gorehound fan like Eli Roth. Director Roland Joffé actually has a distinguished career behind him, earning Best Director Oscar noms for “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission.” Perhaps this is his problem.
Instead of “Captivity” coming out a quality film, it reeks of imitation. It’s as if Joffé watched a bunch of these ultra-violent films and declared, “I can do that.” Then he simply imitated the scenes and style with no real understanding of the horror genre in general.
Ultimately, there’s nothing remotely surprising or unique in this film. Even the so-called twists that are dropped in the middle and the end are such common plot elements that I guessed most of them from watching the trailer alone.
But when all is said and done, the audience feels nothing for Jennifer. I suppose we are supposed to connect with her when she finally realizes a will to live. However, with how uninteresting her life is presented in the first five minutes of the film, and the fact that she repeatedly makes unbelievably shallow statements when we should be connecting with her emotionally, I just never found much interest in whether she lived or died.
It’s not that I think this new breed of horror film is a bad thing, but it really has run its course. I imagine that “Captivity” is the beginning of the end of the genre as it fails to break new ground on the whole and is unable to grab the attention of any significant audience.