Captivity sparked controversy earlier this year when a series of graphic billboards and posters popped up around Los Angeles. Producer Courtney Solomon claimed that it was a mistake, but I seriously have my doubts regarding that. It seemed to be the perfect way to drum up some mainstream press for this small film in the hopes of a box office spike. Well, it backfired and the film has become a box office dud.
That is not to say I didn't enjoy it, which also is not to say that it is good. This film is following on the coattails of the Saw and Hostel franchises, but they are toning down the story (?) and attempting to up the disturbing qualities of said films. The end result is a blend of seriously unsettling imagery combined with a cast of characters I do not care one iota about. Yet still, I found myself enjoying it.
I enjoyed laughing at the ridiculous script, I enjoyed squirming at the torture sequences, I enjoyed the ridiculously shallow tale being spun. The fact that I found myself enjoying this beyond all reason is testament to my being a fan of horror movies; it can be hard to find good ones, so I will occasionally find myself drawn into a bad one. Perhaps it was the more twisted elements that kept me captivated, because it sure wasn't the characters holding my attention.
We are given a taste of what to expect in the opening scene, as we watch our unidentified killer cover a victim in plaster of Paris, poor something down a tube through his nose, while blood drains from his other nostril. This scene ends with our killer taking a sledgehammer to the plaster encased head. Now, that should give you a clear idea of whether or not this is going to be a movie for you. Undoubtedly, many of you will not go anywhere near it, while others of you may smile, thinking this could be just what you're looking for. Well, it isn't quite as bad for the former, and not nearly enough for the latter.
As I sat there watching the film, the words morally bankrupt and misogynistic came to mind. Not that I believe the filmmakers are either, nor do I think those who enjoy this are either. It is, after all, a movie, an exercise in creativity that happens to skew towards the darker side of life. If you watch the film, I am pretty sure the same words will come to your mind. That is until we get a finale that brings in an element of female revenge flicks like I Spit on Your Grave, but just a touch. The way the people are treated in this film is rather repulsive, even without caring about these paper thin characterizations, it was still pretty cruel the way people are dealt with.
Following the gruesome opening, we are introduced to Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert), a shallow model with implied fame and fortune, and a not implied stalker problem. Our introduction comes partially through our stalker's POV through a camcorder — he likes to film his victims for awhile before making his move. In short order, he drugs her and takes her back to his lair. Next is a sequence of twisted little mind games in an attempt to break her down, including watching a tape of a prior victim getting an acid bath, while hers is prepared. There are a number of these sequences, and some are truly cringe-inducing.
The problems arise pretty much whenever anyone opens their mouths, as no one really says anything important, or in any type of naturalistic way. Then Elisha's Jennifer discovers her co-captive, and a rather quick and goofy romance ensues. The situation is so unbelievable as to be laughable. By the time the killer is revealed, we already have a good idea of where it's heading.
Captivity is the kind of movie that defies reason. There really is no reason to like it. It does not have half of the story interest of the franchises that kicked off this latest so-called "torture porn" surge. We don't get to know any of these characters, the killer, the killer's reasons, Jennifer, or her background. It is just a downright mean-spiritied film. Fortunately, all we need is a mean movie once in awhile. At least we got to spend some time with the cat and mouse torture of one victim rather than the multitudes as in the other films, but a little depth would have been nice.
The creative team behind it actually has an interesting pedigree that would lead you to believe that this would be better than it is. It was directed by Roland Joffe whose credits include the Oscar-winning films The Killing Fields and The Mission, while it was co-written by Larry Cohen, who's had a career in B-movies including the It's Alive trilogy, the Maniac Cop trilogy, and more recently the Hollywood thrillers Phone Booth and Cellular. Seeing those titles, it would not be far-fetched to think this would be better. Still it was trash, but entertaining trash.
Bottom line. Be warned, you will likely not like this movie. It strikes me as the kind of movie that a mere handful of people will enjoy. It is morally bankrupt, its soul is corrupt, and it is an affront to genuine torture porn. Go forth and enjoy. Well, at least try to.