Since this is my first movie review for ScareTissue, I decided I wanted to do two things: 1) give you a quick idea of how I review horror movies; and 2) watch something I’d never seen before.
When I sit down to watch a horror movie, I often do a quick search for it on my trusty iPhone. Basically, I want to know what I’m getting into. High body count? Lots of gore? Weak acting? That kind of thing. That way I have some idea what to expect. Is it a slice ’em and dice ’em? Or more of a psychological terror, à la The Sixth Sense? I rarely have high expectations for my choices, mainly because I watch some real doozies! But I go in with an open mind, and I’m willing to give most any movie a chance.
For the sake of my first review, I went into Vile (2011) knowing nothing other than what Netflix said on my TV screen.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the movie.
The opening sequence was well done, if not a little vague – creepy music playing in the background, and a man being tortured. We never get his name, his backstory, or anything other than the fact that he doesn’t make it past the first five minutes of the movie.
Cut to a beautiful, dreamy field. Four friends – Nick, Taylor, Kai, and Tony – are camping, and it seems like Taylor might have a little secret she’s hiding. The friends talk, they laugh, but eventually it’s time to pack up and hit the road.
And that’s where the fun starts. Seems Nick has a soft spot for pretty strangers, and after agreeing to give one a ride back to her car, our friends are gassed – no, not tired; actual noxious, make-you-pass-out gassed. They wake up in a room, tied to chairs along with five strangers, and each has an odd contraption attached to their neck. The first five minutes after the kids wake up are a bit disorienting – screaming, crying, nails getting ripped out (You’ll see!).
Everyone is being held captive. We don’t know where they are or what’s going on. Our four friends are encouraged to come upstairs and watch a video, and it will explain everything. The video plays, and we are treated to a suitably creepy woman – Scientist? Doctor? Serial killer? – telling the group that she wants them to secrete three chemicals – adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin. The chemicals will be collected in the little vials at the back of their necks. They have 24 hours to complete this task. Oh, and removing the neck doohickey leads to sudden muerte – for death!
Since these chemicals are secreted during times of extreme… umm… stress, shall we say. Guess how our friends opt to go about collecting it? (No, it isn’t by having sex, though that would have worked too!) Yep, torture. They all agree to do what needs to be done to fill the vials, and things get ugly.
And here is where I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there is a lot of violence – fingernails ripped out (as already mentioned), legs broken, flesh burned – but it was never overly explicit. Director Taylor Sheridan (of Sons of Anarchy fame) does a good job of keeping the blood to a minimum without losing any of the impact. Because of the subject, there is a lot of screaming, a lot of crying, and some chaotic scenes. Yet they are easy to follow. The camera isn’t flying about and we, the viewer, aren’t left shaking our heads and trying to figure out what’s going on.
The cast is pretty low profile. In fact, the only ones I recognized were Greg Cipes and McKenzie Westmore. The acting was remarkably understated for a movie like this – no over the top performances. Overall, I was impressed with the performances given by a cast of unknowns. Each character convincingly portrayed their fear, anger, and desperation. Unfortunately, the ending – while impressive – was less than satisfying, but perhaps that’s because I’m a sucker for a happy ending, and I didn’t get what I wanted here.
I’ve seen the Saw films, and I can’t put this into the same category. Though torture is the premise of the movie, it never felt elaborate or staged. These were normal, nice (if a little dull) people put into a situation with violence at the heart of it.
As for the ending, I kind of saw what it was leading up to, and it still got to me a bit. Yes, I got a tad choked up, if only because these were people you can relate to.
Vile surprised me, in a good way.
3 1/2 vials of dopamine out of five.