Bury my heart with wounded glee
It’s nearly painful having to add ‘original versions’ before those titles. Thirty years ago — hell, ten years ago — no one dreamed they’d be remade as they have been, along with other dubious classics of the 70s to form a foundation in new horror fans loath to grasp the poetry of, say, Bride of Frankenstein (1935) or Curt Siodmak’s flavorful script of The Wolf Man (1941). Still connected to gothic literature, those pictures reflected archaic ideals about to curdle from Hitler and Hiroshima. Now, in Walled In (2009) and so many others like it, we’re reduced to raw nerve and human hamburger.
Based on the novel Les Emmurés by Serge Brussolo, it’s about an engineer (Mischa Barton) sent to a remote apartment building slated for demolition. Determining where to set the charges, she uncovers hidden tunnels within the building that are connected to a serial killer who walled in his victims years earlier. Barton is joined by teenage Cameron Bright, an intense young actor who has given me the creeps ever since he played Nicole Kidman’s ‘husband’ in Birth (2004). As an added bonus, his mother is Deborah Kara Unger, an actress who scored points with me as James Spader’s wife in Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), a toxic masterpiece high on the list of my (not so-) guilty pleasures.
For the first hour, Walled In dabbles in haunted house territory, or as an extension of the sinister apartment ‘complexes’ of Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant), or even as a continuation of Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel. Arms protrude from the walls as they did in Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), grabbing Barton in her sleep. (At one point, she refers to the place as the Bates Motel!) It’s moderately frightening but undone by characters doing too many dumb things — as in spending the night in this obvious hellhole.
But, then, horror is no longer about being horrified anymore. It’s about being irreparably damaged. During its last third, Barton slides into that sticky abyss where stupidity and irrationality clash. It’s where a new breed of horror fan can wallow in a woman’s descent into the pit of hell. She’s soon covered in blood — isn’t that de rigueur these days? — as her mind teeters over the edge. The horror film no longer carries a regard for recovery, victims must pay. Not necessarily with their lives, but with their humanity, dignity, intellect and love. I’m sure this is somehow necessary in our culture, but I’m just too bored or oblivious to care about the hows or whys.
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Labels: Capsule reviews