Topic: Why I didn't like Captivity
Well, I finally saw Captivity yesterday. I knew that it was directed by Roland Joffe (an Oscar nominee responsible for The Killing Fields and The Mission) and co-written by Larry Cohen (cult '70s horror filmmaker responsible for the It's Alive films, Q: The Winged Serpent, God Told Me To, The Stuff, and more recently co-writer of more mainstream thrillers Phone Booth and Cellular), so already I was rather impressed with its pedigree. But I was also aware of the controversy accompanying the film, and about how the studio, After Dark Pictures, apparently decided to cash in on the success of Hostel and the Saw films and added some additional scenes of gore and torture. There was apparently some hue and cry about the poster artwork as well.
So how is the film, you ask? Well, I have to say that there probably is a genuinely unnerving, halfway-decent thriller somewhere in this mess struggling to get out, involving a famous and pampered fashion model (played by Elisha Cuthbert) who's kidnapped, locked in a room somewhere, and put through tormenting mind games by her mysterious abductor. But that film is totally deformed and undercut by the studio's cynical and shameless attempt at pandering to the "extreme" horror crowd. Additional scenes involve Cuthbert being strapped down while the kidnapper mixes a disgusting cocktail of human organs, including an eye and an ear, in a blender and then forces her to drink it, a shameless fake-out involving an exhibited video-recording featuring another victim's face being burned by acid, and a totally uncalled-for scene involving the Cuthbert character's pet dog!
Mind you, I have absolutely no problem with the use of torture or gore in movies, provided that it's organic and integral to the film, which I do believe to be the case with movies like the Hostel and Saw pictures (or, going back even further, the Lucio Fulci zombie films). I also have no problem with torture or gore in, let's say, gangster movies or war movies, because those things sometimes are a major part of what goes on in those particular situations. But just imagine some studio executive taking a look at the final cut of some picture about World War II or Vietnam or something and then saying, "Well, you've got a really good movie here, guys, but you know something? It's just not violent enough! Hey, I know what we need! How about a close-up of a soldier getting his head just totally blasted open and his brains splattered all over the place so you can see daylight shining through whatever's left!" Or perhaps, "You know something? When the American soldiers are captured and taken to the enemy POW camp, during the torture scene, you know what would really get the audiences roaring?? If during the interrogation, the enemy officers shove live hand grenades up the Americans' a--es - with hilarious results!"
Okay, granted, that probably would never happen in quite such a circumstance. Horror movies are certainly far more of an exploitation genre than war movies. And anyway, the brave deeds of brave men and women in uniform are probably considered sacrosanct, even by the most callous of studio suits, and so there probably would never be any real tampering on such a scale. (Although, who knows, I could be wrong!) But the bottom line is, you shouldn't try to take a perfectly good (or even just passable) film and try to make it into something it's not for the sake of upping the box office take. Actually, the aforementioned scene involving the force-feeding of pureed organs is a rather good metaphor for the studio's attitude toward us horror moviegoers. "Hey, why don't we throw in a scene where the girl is strapped down and force-fed a cocktail of human organs?! You know that all those sick freaks out there are just totally gonna dig that! Hey, whaddayawant? That's entertainment! To each his own, you know, let's not judge!" (And if you want to extend the metaphor even further, you could even say that those organs and stuff are actually preserved leftovers from the Slovakian factory in Hostel, or maybe even from the unfortunate souls who failed to escape from Jigsaw's traps in Saw - or maybe even from a Slovakian factory owned and operated by Jigsaw! In other words...reheated leftovers!)
Hey, sorry, but this particular sick freak is just a little bit more particular than that, and I'm just not buying it. I can see right through that particular ruse.