Review in a Hurry: Sadly, big-name vampires and superheroes like Alexander Skarsgård, James Marsden and Kate Bosworth can’t save this absolutely unnecessary remake from feeling like a forgettable Lifetime movie. A really bloody, vile Lifetime movie.
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The Bigger Picture: After her hit TV show is cancelled, actress Amy Sumner (Bosworth) decides to move back to her small hometown of Blackwater in the deep South, bringing her new spouse David (Marsden). But their home needs repairs.
Enter Amy’s old high school beau Charlie (Skarsgård), a hunky and available contractor who comes on strong with the Southern charm. But David, an uptight Hollywood writer, is suspicious. It’s obvious Charlie still pines for Amy, but David’s a non-confrontational guy so he’ll just let that go.
Of course, big mistake.
A braver, more relevant film would have made Charlie more sympathetic and David less so. After all, Charlie is a man who takes any job he can muster because he can’t afford to be choosy while David “works on his writing.” As played by Skarsgård, Charlie is an incredibly charismatic guy, so the audience would easily sympathize with his down-on-his-luck situation.
But then he does something irredeemable, so we’re stuck rooting for David.
Writer/director Rod Lurie (The Contender) presents this war between machismo and intellectuals as some kind of revelation, which it really isn’t. This is a remake of a film that shocked the world 40 years ago.
It’s very much the same story, except now in the South instead of rural England, and Sam Peckinpah‘s version was less about the literal violence and more about how people were much darker then they seem. Today we pretty much require a man who wears glasses in Act 1 to get all Samuel L. Jackson by Act 3.
All is not lost, though since the cast clicks. Bosworth brings spark and strength to her role. When she gets pushed (by leering eyes of rednecks) she pushes back. And while Skarsgård is mostly riffing on his Eric character from True Blood, he’s got the screen presence to transition to the big screen.
Still, Marsden can’t make David (played by a young Dustin Hoffman in the original) much more than whiny tool? True, he’s playing a husband who’s spineless—or at the very least indifferent to the escalating violence—but that’s a tricky role to pull off. Too often he comes off as just unlikable.
Meanwhile, the violence perpetrated on Amy is meant to shock, but the bad behavior feels less authentic and more the kind of drama only seen in the movies.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Once the film stops playing its subject straight and makes with the boiling water, the drill guns, and big bear traps, things get trashy and exploitive in the best way possible. If you’re the type that really has a thing for these torture horror flicks, you’ll at least find the finale bloody, ultra-violent and satisfying.
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