Saturday, April 23, 2011

Horror Film Review

Buried (2010):  I really should have liked this movie.  The opening credits and music were reminiscent of a Hitchcock thriller.  And Hitchcock was a god.  I like Ryan Reynolds.  I like films that are out of the ordinary, and this one is most definitely out of the ordinary.  The big "but" here is that as the viewer, you end up feeling totally manipulated by the contrivances.  (It took me a long time to come up with that line.)

Interesting thing number one about this film:  Reynolds is the only actor you see.  Well, you do see a woman but only on a cell phone.  Interesting thing number two:  The entire movie takes place in a buried wooden box with the lighting provided by either a Zippo lighter, a partially functional flashlight, a green glow stick, or a cell phone's blue display screen.  Yes, the set-up is all terribly interesting.  The execution, however, leaves much to be desired.

Paul Conroy wakes up bound and gagged and in the dark.  We see only a black screen for so long I thought the disc had stopped.  The Zippo flares, he works the gag off, and does what must of us would do, I suppose.  He totally freaks out.  Exhausted, he falls asleep and is awakened by a vibrating cell phone.  It's then we find out he's a contractor working in Iraq as a truck driver.  His convoy was attacked and he was kidnapped.  The bad guy on the phone says he wants $5 million.  Paul then starts calling everybody.  We hear his young son's voice on the answering machine and his wife's on her cell's voice mail. He reaches his employer but is panicked and ends up sounding nuts.  He even tries 911 but gets an operator in Ohio who's more than a little dubious.  Once he calms down, he has another go.  This time the FBI.  Again though, he loses patience and makes a hash of it.  Next, he calls a friend of his wife's to get the number for the State Department.  Finally, he's transferred to the hostage specialist in Iraq, Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson) who already has the ball rolling to find him.  He'd been called by the FBI.  This all happens in the first half hour or so.  Now what?  Well, things start to get a bit silly

At one point, Paul wakes up to find a large black snake slithering out of his pant leg.  Yeah, I asked that, too.  Where the hell did that come from?  Clever use of his hip flask and the Zippo drives the snake back through the hole from whence it came.  Then the bad guy, Jabir (Jose Luis Garcia-Perez) sends a video of Paul's coworker Pamela Lutti (Ivana Mino), who's also been kidnapped, beg for her life and then get shot in the head.  Jabir wants Paul to video himself reading a prepared statement.  Only when his wife and son are threatened does he do so.  Not too long later, Jabir wants Paul to video himself cutting off his own finger.  Again, so they'll leave his family alone.  So he does.  Explosions overhead crack the top of the box and sand starts flowing in.  That should mean the good guys are close to finding him, right?  Well...

I felt led by the nose throughout this film and it really started bugging me toward the end.  Near the end, Paul has a little daydream in which he hears digging and Dan's voice and then the lid of the coffin opens, flooding the box with sunlight.  We don't know it's a daydream, of course, but when we realize that it is, we know exactly how this film will end.  What a huge mistake.  All the built up tension evaporates in a second.  The other big mistake is not injecting humor.  The only remotely humorous bit is when Paul is talking to his wife's friend.  That's it.  I mean, it's Ryan Reynolds for God's sake. 

The Breakdown

Acting:  Reynolds is pretty good in this movie.  He has to be given that he's the only actor.  The voice talent also do well. 
Story:  I've seen this done on Bones and CSI  so it's far from unique. 
Direction:  Despite the fact that he has so little real estate to work with, director Rodrigo Cortes does manage to keep things from getting boring. 
Production Values:'s a box. 
Gore/FX:  None.  They don't even show Paul cutting off his finger, just the bloody rag he ties around it.  And if the snake is CGI, it's the best I've ever seen. 
The Ending:  Don't get me started again.
The Verdict:  Should you see Buried?  It got all kinds of good reviews (other than here).  And Ryan Reynolds is Hollywood's top dog right now, so I can't blame you for wanting to.  All I will say is that you might want to think twice if, like me, you hate movies that wind you up for an hour and a half only to leave you feeling cheated and empty in the end.  Pardon the pun, but I suggest leaving this one buried.

My Rating2 out of 5 stars.

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