Case Number 22183: Small Claims Court


Anchor Bay // 2011 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 2nd, 2011

The Charge

Based on the novel by Jane Austin.
(Just kidding.)

The Case

Sarah (Amy Seimertz) is a recovering alcoholic who regularly attends meetings and conceals a deep, dark secret. Another AA member (Joe Swanberg) has caught Sarah's fancy and begins to woo her. In a parallel story we find Garrick Turrell (A.J. Bowen), a convicted mass murderer who has made a daring escape from prison and is now on the run from the law as he begins getting back to his old ways of cutting, maiming and killing. It's quickly revealed that Garrick is actually Sarah's ex-boyfriend, and he's looking to find her for his own sinister reasons. Can Sarah stay alive? Will Garrick leave a wake of destruction in his path? Will anyone wear a hockey mask during this outing? The answers lie somewhere between the sweet embrace of life and A Horrible Way To Die!

There are two kinds of horror movies. There are fun horror movies (monsters, zombies, supernatural spirits) and then there are realistic horror movies that deal squarely in the here and now. I would always rather sit through a fun horror movie than a realistic horror movie -- life is hard enough, why do I want to watch people suffer in ways that seem too plausible for comfort (ala Hostel)?

Which brings me to A Horrible Way To Die, whose title probably should have told me everything I needed to know about how depressing this movie would be. It couldn't have been worse, short of being called Gruesome Ways We Torture Your Mother. This is a movie that won't give you a warm and gooey feeling after the end credits begin to roll. There are many moments of death and gore, and none of it is much fun. Unless you consider "fun" to be seeing human bodies stuffed in freezers. The people who enjoy this movie are the people I don't want to share a zip code with.

The movie A Horrible Way To Die will most be compared to is Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, another film that feels like a documentary, with a great performance by Michael Rooker. Much like that movie, A Horrible Way To Die often has that same real life feel even when it focuses on a standard love story about two alcoholics who start a blossoming romance. The actors here are all mostly unknowns and lack any superstar qualities or good looks.

The most prominent performance is A.J. Bowen as the killer, Garrick Turrell. Bowen doesn't really infuse the character with much personality; although you can tell he's seething underneath, Garrick doesn't come off as evil enough to warrant true terror or legendary status as a film villain. Garrick is just kind of there, an unimpressive presence in a rather unimpressive movie. Other characters (especially the two romantic leads played plainly by Amy Seimetz and Joe Sawnberg) are all perfunctory and just there to prop the storyline up until it's eventual "shocking" conclusion.

I say "shocking" because the movie takes a 180 degree turn and suddenly looses any credibility it had built over the last hour or so (which wasn't much to begin with, let's be honest). There is much bloodshed and main characters die, and when the final moments arrive we're left wondering what the hell just happened. One character suddenly takes a new turn, and it makes about as much sense as the movie career of Yahoo Serious.

For those looking for an intense horror movie experience, I don't think A Horrible Way To Die is going to satisfy. The movie is slow going -- almost snail like during its first hour -- and feels like it wants to be bigger and more important than it actually is. I was hoping to like A Horrible Way To Die more than I did. It's not a terrible movie but it also doesn't do enough to set itself apart from the pack.

A Horrible Way To Die is presented in a decent looking 1.78:1 1080p high definition transfer. The movie was intentionally shot on grainy film stock and looks grungy and off color. It's bathed in blacks and darkness, and when color does pop up it's muted and dull. The transfer probably accurately represents what the director's vision was, but it's nothing impressive on Blu-ray. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 in English. The music score by Jasper Justice Lee is often effective at drumming up dread and filters through both the front and rear speakers. Overall it's a very nice audio presentation that works well with the material. Also included on this disc are Spanish and English subtitles.

The extra features for A Horrible Way To Die are thin; fans get an audio commentary by director/editor Adam Wingard and writer/producer Simon Barrett (for diehard horror geeks only) as well as a short behind-the-scenes featurette titled -- hold on to your hats, folks! -- "Behind the Scenes of A Horrible Way To Die."

The Verdict

A Horrible Way To Die is not horrible, it's just vanilla horror wrapped in an indie label.

Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile
Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb