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A Horrible Way to Die (2010)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/6/2011

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/30/2011

If I said that I'm not a fan of style over substance, I'd be lying. Many of my favorite movies, such as Halloween and Evil Dead certainly favor creative visuals and audio design over the story. Do I like a move with a great story? Of course. But, there's nothing like a movie which does something new and exciting with the visuals. But, style over substance, like anything in life, should be done in moderation. If you go too far, you get a movie like A Horrible Way to Die, where the visuals keep wandering off on their own.

A Horrible Way to Die with what seems like two divergent storylines. Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen) is a prison inmate who is being transferred when things go horribly wrong. Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is a dental hygienist who is in Alcoholics Anonymous. There, she meets Kevin (Joe Swanberg) and they begin to see each other. (Although, everyone knows that one of the rules of A.A. is that you donít get involved in a relationship for at least a year.) Meanwhile, Garrick has escaped and shows that he has no issue with killing. Sarah is hesitant to get involved with Kevin and keeps him at a distance. We eventually learn that Sarah and Garrick share a past and that she fears for her life.

Trends in Hollywood come and go, but the serial killer movie seems to be here to stay, especially in low-budget and direct-to-video releases. Many of these movies are indistinguishable and the killers are typically portrayed as loners who obsess over killing. We rarely see one of these characters who, other than the fact that they are murderers, lead normal lives. You rarely see movies like The Stepfather (which, for the record, is pre The Silence of the Lambs) which examines the idea that killers can attempt to be civil, as opposed to slobbering monsters who live by themselves and scream at the walls.

A Horrible Way to Die takes this idea a step further by looking at the effect that a killerís behavior can have on those around him. Letís face it, we all have bad exes, but what if your ex was a serial killer. That would certainly screw you up, right. We see that Sarah is a damaged character and we learn that she has a perfectly legitimate reason to be that way, and it explains why she is cold towards Kevin at first. The movie actually makes a mistake by not focusing on Sarah enough. Yes, we have to see Garrickís actions, both in the present and the past, to understand who he is, but Sarahís story is more compelling. The twist ending is a bit far-fetched, but Iíll admit, I didnít see it coming.

So why does Director Adam Wingard take Simon Barrettís intriguing script and turn it into one of the most needlessly over-directed movies that Iíve ever seen? Honestly, this looks like my 9-year old daughter shot it. The movie continuously goes in and out of focus, the camera searches for the character whoís talking (often resting on inanimate objects) and the screen goes black constantly. This is all clearly done in the name of art, but all that it does is drawn unnecessary attention to itself. These devices do nothing to assist in telling the story and they go far beyond distracting. When someone is talking and you are trying to really listen, if the picture suddenly goes fuzzy youíre drawn out of the story and tempted to yell at the projectionist...until you remember that you are at home.

I try not to get upset at movie, but I found A Horrible Way to Die to be very frustrating. This script by Barrett isnít as good as some of his other work, most notably Dead Birds and the underrated Frankenfish, but, again, it does present some interesting ideas. The filmmaking here just destroys any potential which the film had. While I was watching the movie, Ed Wood called and said, ďAt least my movies were in focus.Ē There are a few moments here which overcome the bizarre direction, but for the most part, we sit and wonder when a better director will remake this movie.

A Horrible Way to Die had me on the verge of making an eye appointment on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. Outside of that, the video is a bit hard to judge. The picture is a bit grainy in places, and itís also dark. The picture going in and out of focus makes things look blurry at times. The colors look good and the black tones are true. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The track brings home some notable low-frequency rumbling effects during the scenes with Garrick. These keep the subwoofer busy at times. The stereo effects are nicely done during some crowd scenes, such as a restaurant. The surround effects are average.

The A Horrible Way to Die Blu-ray Disc contains only two extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Editor Adam Wingard and Writer/Producer Simon Barrett. "Behind the Scenes of A Horrible Way to Die" (7 minutes) is a brief featurette which offers on-set footage showing the cast and crew at work, along with comments from the filmmakers and the actors. We get a look at the special effects makeup, but we also get some random shots as well.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long