I received this screener on behalf of Osiris Entertainment.
The best way to describe this film is to relate it to several other very similar films that I have watched over the years. Titles like Open Water, Buried and 127 Hours immediately come to mind for the sole reason that they focus on one central character stuck in a seemingly unescapeable situation in which they must use their wits and know-how to escape. In this particular film, we follow a young female model (a great performance by Stella Maeve) who gets into a car wreck alongside her beau, a rising pop star (Evan Taubenfeld). She is suspended upside down in her seat with her legs trapped underneath the steering wheel. She does manage to get her phone working but here’s the catch: the ‘1’ key is broken so she is unable to dial the police. As she finally manages to get a hold of a seemingly helpful stranger (voice of Michael Madsen), she soon discovers that all is not as it appears to be indeed.
An important and difficult thing for a film like this is to keep the viewer glued to the screen during its entire runtime. This takes skilled actors and luckily we have that in the form of Stella Maeve. You may have seen her before – she’s had supporting roles in The Runaways, Transamerica and a brief run on House. As far as I know though, this is one of her few leading roles and she really knocks it out of the park. For most of the film, she has to be an emotional wreck as she struggles to escape the impending doom of being held upside-down. She must deal with internal factors like the blood rushing to her head for an extended period of time, the danger of wildlife and the very nature of the call she is on with the stranger, who simply goes by Casey. Michael Madsen does a great job as well as he is able to channel a suspicious and leering character without going over-the-top with his vocalizing and finding that perfect balance of creepy and intriguing.
The style of the film is also very cool. We start out with a few snapshots of Stella and her boyfriend and we even see a proposal when suddenly we are taken to the carwreck, which has left both of them upside-down. Her boyfriend is dead, she is in the middle of nowhere, her cell phone battery is dying by the second and the only help she can find is someone who she can’t really trust. The immediacy of the situation is punched up to the max as the situation turns increasingly more dire while we wait for something good to happen to the poor girl. At the same time, the film deals with some pretty interesting themes: namely that of celebrity and celebrity worship specifically along with themes of psychological and physical abuse. Harris Demel has proven himself to be a very capable director with his handling of the subject matter here.
To go into too much detail about the abuse themes would ruin too much of the movie so I will just say that it takes these themes in a direction that you may not expect and really messes with your expectations in a genre film such as this. It’s a thrilling ride while at the same time a fairly clever commentary on several important themes and that separates it from the rest of the pack. I recommend you check this out on Video-on-Demand.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)