Inception Media Group // 2011 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // November 4th, 2012
Gives new meaning to the phrase "No pain, no gain."
It took me a day or so to purge the gory images of Vile from my impressionable young mind (yes, I said "young" mind). But after I began mulling things over, I realized something. Despite the excessive torture, this is a fairly decent film with an original plot, and an interesting assortment of characters that just needed to be fleshed out a bit more.
Four friends wake up in a rundown house with a bizarre contraption connected to the base of their skulls. A clandestine group has kidnapped them and five others, in order to collect a chemical that humans excrete which can be used to manufacture a powerful black market drug. Unfortunately, the chemical can only be obtained when the captives experiences pain (uh-oh). So, these geniuses decide to inflict disfiguring pain upon each another, hoping they'll be released once enough of the chemical is collected, as their captors have promised (yeah right). As each of the captives go through their brutal torture, some begin to formulate a plan to sacrifice the weaker among them for the good of the whole.
I was baffled as to what to write in this review. On the one hand, Vile contains way too much unnecessary gore for my tastes. On the other hand, it has a story that drew me in...in spite of myself. The film opens with our heroes -- Nick (Eric Jay Beck), his gal Tayler (April Matson), and their friends Tony (Akeem Smith) and Kai (Elisha Skorman) -- on a relaxing camping trip, giving us some small sense of who they are. But once they wake up in the rundown house, the story takes a back seat to some really gut churning gore.
Sure, the science of an apparatus used to collect a human-produced chemical for making drugs is all a bit sketchy, but it's easy enough to overlook because the premise is interesting. However, writers Rob Kowsaluk and Eric Jay Beck (who also plays Nick) take this good idea, catapult carnage over substance, and never look back.
Vile didn't need to go all Saw on us. It's a clever enough script that could've toned down the torture, and explored its characters more fully. I'm sure there are people yelling at their monitors right now, "It's a horror film! It doesn't need fully formed characters!!" Oh contraire mon ami. Good films, horror or not, contain characters we care about; which is why some films have more staying power than others. Vile had the potential to be one of those stand out horror flicks like the original Halloween and the first A Nightmare on Elm Street. Alas, it wasn't to be.
Director Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy) does a fine job with a cast of unknowns who deliver decent performances, but their efforts are lost in the cheap torture porn route the film decides to take. Some of the dialogue even seems improvised, which works in this extremely chaotic situation. Sheridan uses this chaos to create an environment where everyone is off balance, including the audience. Since most of Vile takes place in one creepy house, this contributes to the characters feelings of desperation and explains (in part) how Nick and the others could possibly hurt and torture each other. Take away the ripped out fingernails, broken limbs, and burning skin, and you have yourself a pretty decent horror film experience.
Presented in standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer does a great job showing the gritty dreariness of the house and the bleak situation our captives are in. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track does such a good job of highlighting the lovely sounds of bodies being mutilated, that I found myself with my hands over my ears for most of the movie. Extras include two deleted scenes; one called "Drug Dealer," which is one of those rare deleted scenes that would've been a helpful addition to the film had it been included. It did a better job of explaining that the chemical being taken was going to be used to make a potent street drug; something which was only touched on early but never fully explained. We also get the theatrical trailer and a short but funny featurette with the director cleaning up fake blood from one of the scenes.
Vile is too eager to shock viewers with very disturbing abuses to the human body. Thanks to a script with lots of potential and a surprisingly good ending, the torture doesn't completely ruin this little indy horror film.
Not Guilty, but serving 5 to 10 in Joliet for unnecessary gore.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Inception Media Group
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site