"Stuck is a horrifying film. But I don't know if I would say it's a horror film, because it has really nothing to do with the supernatural. It's really about people, and what people will do to each other, which can sometimes be much more terrifying than anything vampires or werewolves might be up to." — Director Stuart Gordon in a featurette included on the DVD
Stuart Gordon's latest, Stuck, was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray. It is inspired by the true story of a young health care worker who hit a homeless man with her car and parked the car in her garage with the man still lodged in her window, where he slowly bled to death days later. The film represents Gordon's best chance at branching out past the horror genre. But instead of outgrowing his conventional take on stories like this, Gordon decides to stick to familiar ground.
Brandi Boski (Mena Suvari) works at a nursing home, as we find out from the clever and amusing opening credits, a slow motion overview of Brandi passing out pills to her elderly patients while a rap song plays over the scene. Her tight, cornrowed hair telegraphs her white trash existence. And in fact, she is overjoyed to hear she is being considered for a promotion that may help her leave filthy octogenarians' diapers behind. So she celebrates that night in her usual way, popping a complimentary hit of E from her dealer boyfriend, Rashid (Russell Hornsby), at the local club while getting a little buzzed on alcohol. Getting behind the wheel in her state may not be a good idea, but she decides to anyway, heading home to meet her boyfriend for a night of drug- and alcohol-fueled sex.
Tom Bardo (Stephen Rea), a recently laid off project manager, hasn't had much luck finding a job, and now loses his apartment as a result. Bureaucratic dead ends he faces at the unemployment office gradually reveal the passive nature of the man. He is not strong-willed or clever enough to get people to break out of their routine to help him in his job search. So he ends up on the street, a broken man, absorbed in his own self-pity.
The paths of our dual protagonists literally collide when Boski hits Bardo while driving home from the club. Bardo gets stuck in the windshield, bleeding and semi-conscious. Boski, showing little remorse, is so obsessed with making sure nothing gets in the way of her promotion, she decides to cover up the incident, stowing the car, and Bardo, in her garage. Her lack of conscience is further illustrated by her subsequent action, having sex with Rashid in her home while Bardo bleeds to death just outside.
Had the film's narrative followed the true life story, we could have had a perverse, Cronenberg-like take on the dichotomous existence led by Boski after the accident. The real nurse let the man bleed to death, and then, scarily, went to work as a caregiver every day. She would have gotten away with the death had she not brought up the accident while joking with friends. If the movie hewed closely to this account, we could have seen the gradual disintegration of a person's good judgment and conscience in a coolly detached way, while cutting away to the homeless man, the creeping hopelessness of being saved slowly engulfing him. This could have been a significant turn in the career of horror master, Gordon (Re-Animator), who is better known for his unsubtle attraction to B-movie-type gore.
But, at this point, the film departs from the real life event. It instead makes Bardo more of a traditional hero, desperately trying to save himself, actively working his way out of his predicament. Gordon falls prey to his own predilection for blood, basking in the gooey excess brought about by Bardo's attempts to escape. When we arrive at the film's climax, it's a full-out gore extravaganza, with the half-dead Bardo battling a crazed Boski in her garage, with another dead body nearby, while surrounded by flames.
Stuck, a film that looked like his last best chance to transcend the genre-bound conventions he often employs, is not bad. It's just disappointing because of how much more it could have been. The film's title ironically addresses the state of director Gordon's once subversive and promising career.