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by Peter Sobczynski

"And You Though Elisha Got Into Some Stupid Scrapes On "24"
1 stars

As you may recall, the new torture-porn extravaganza “Captivity” caused a bit of a stir in the media a couple of months ago when a series of billboards went up in Los Angeles that appeared to show star Elisha Cuthbert being abducted, tortured and apparently murdered by some deviant fiend. Amazingly, some people took offense at these images and there was a hue and a cry until the people at After Dark Films, the fine folks who produced the film, agreed to take them down after saying that they were shocked (in the Claude Rains sense of the word) that this particular ad campaign would inspire such controversy. Because of that notoriety, some people may actually be intrigued enough to plunk down their hard-earned money to see the actual film–a pity, since actually sitting through it is a form of torture that far outstrips anything seen on the screen.

Cuthbert stars as Jennifer, a fashion model/actress who, despite being a worldwide celebrity (as we are constantly being reminded through shots of billboards and magazine covers), somehow manages to walk down dark streets at night and attend charity functions at hip nightclubs without having a single friend, associate or member of Good Charlotte coming along for the ride. In a scene that plays like a educational film for starlets on the dangers of not having an entourage, Jennifer is drugged and kidnapped at the nightclub (thanks to one of those completely empty women’s bathrooms that are so commonplace at charity functions at hip nightclubs) and when she wakes up the next morning, she finds herself in a bizarre dungeon that has been elaborately tricked out to look like her bedroom along with some modifications like elaborate video systems and vents for knockout gas.

Before long, Jennifer’s unseen captor arrives and begins to put her through a series of tortures that are meant to destroy her mentally by playing on her worst fears. For starters, the lights are constantly being turned out because she is afraid of the dark (a fact that is only explained to us during a video of an interview in which she confesses to being afraid of the dark without ever mentioning why, which might have helped the whole psychological torture angle a bit. Later, to presumably play on the way that she believes her looks to be her life, she is shown another video of a previous victim being submitted to an acid shower (which results in a make-up job of the kind of quality usually only seen in the home videos shot by those weird kids at the end of the block) just before the shower is turned on her–luckily for her, her captor has a sense of humor and only gives her a regular shower and some fake wound makeup. Since it appears that her dog is the only person she really loves, she is forced to chose between blasting him with a shotgun or getting blasted herself. (Memo to the fabulous PETA babe–you might want to skip this movie.) And since she apparently harbors a deep-seated fear of being trapped on “Survivor” and being forced to consume something icky for valuable cash and prizes, she is forced to down a smoothie made up of various organs and, one presumes, an energy boost. Lucky for her, these tortures don’t seem to affect her too greatly because once she discovers that there is another captive down there with her, hunky Gary (Daniel Gillies), it isn’t long before they wind up in bed together. (Apparently organ meat is a heretofore unknown aphrodisiac of surprising effectiveness.)

Frankly, the only thing that is truly shocking about “Captivity” is that there are a couple of names in the credits that one wouldn’t normally associate with twelfth-rate sleaze like this. The first is that of co-writer Larry Cohen, the B-movie stalwart who has directed such quirky low-budget gems as “God Told Me To” (which gave us the sight of Andy Kaufman as a possessed New York cop shooting up the St Patrick’s Day parade) “It’s Alive”(which riffed on the epidemic of thalidomide-related birth defects by giving us an army of killer mutant babies) “Q–The Winged Serpent” (in which a giant Aztec monster was reborn in the top of the Chrysler Building) and “The Stuff” (a film about a mysterious fast food that eats its consumers as they eat it) and provided the screenplays for such intriguing mid-budget studio films as “Phone Booth” and “Cellular.” Although his work has always been uneven, his best efforts have always a few things in common–an arresting premise, bits of sly social satire that offer barbed commentary on contemporary society and an ingenious late-inning twist that sends things off into unexpected directions just when the basic idea is about to go stale. Of those, the first two are virtually nowhere to be seen here (some irony could have been mined from the notion of our heroine being forced to model for her life, not just her livelihood, but it never happens) and while there is a late-inning twist, it is one so thuddingly obvious from the early going that I just assumed at first that it was nothing more than a red herring prefiguring the real shocker that would sadly never come.

Then again, a look at the writing credits suggests that Cohen may not be entirely to blame since he shares the writing credit with one Joseph Tura. Now, seeing as how Mr. Tura has no other writing credits (according to IMDB) but does just happen to have the same name as the character played by Jack Benny in the classic comedy “To Be Or Not To Be,” I am harboring a suspicion that Cohen wrote a screenplay with this basic premise a long time ago and when “Saw” and “Hostel” made sadism profitable again, it was rewritten by “Tura” in order to throw in the icky stuff in order to cash in on the wave. If this is true, then I would like to paraphrase “To Be Or Not To Be” by suggesting what “Tura” does to the horror film is more or less the same thing that the Germans did to Poland.

However, the really surprising name to be found on the credits is that of director Roland Joffe. Yes, that Roland Joffe–the Oscar-nominated director of such films as “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission.” Granted, Joffe’s career since those early successes has been, to put it mildly, uneven–the box-office disasters “Fat Man and Little Boy” and “City of Joy,” an uncredited role on “Super Mario Brothers” (the film that gave us the sight of Dennis Hopper yelling “Muster the Goombahs!”), the infamously awful soft-core version of “The Scarlet Letter” with Demi Moore, the weirdo nouveau-noir “Goodbye Lover” and the trashy MTV series “Undressed”–but that still doesn’t begin to explain his presence at the helm here. Generally speaking, after all, one begins one’s career with a crappy horror film and then goes on to the Oscar bait, not vice-versa, though anyone watching this film would be hard-pressed to discern any talent going on behind the cameras. This is crude, suspense-free filmmaking at its worst–Joffe fails utterly to generate anything resembling tension and even the barf-bag moments lack the gleefully grotesque energy that Eli Roth, for all of his failings, brings to his grotesqueries.

“Captivity” is junk through and through–the kind of garbage that gives a bad name to the entire horror genre in the way that it offers nothing more than paper-thin characters and repellent imagery. If only the filmmakers had labored as much time and energy on the film itself as they did on the publicity materials–as grotesque and distasteful as they might have been, they did admittedly grab and hold one’s attention in ways that the dank, dreary and disgusting movie proper never begins to approach.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15596&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/13/07 16:23:42
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User Comments

12/03/09 Ashley I love Elisha Cuthbert so she really helped out this movie 3 stars
7/19/09 Carol Baker Ugh, what a horrible horror movie 1 stars
3/02/09 mr.mike Should please genre fans , don't know what all the hate is about. 4 stars
9/10/08 Borat this new wave of horror is not 'tortue porn'.violent movies like this have always been here 3 stars
4/15/08 Matt At last a movie that can be fully reviewed in this small space. CRAP DELUXE!!! 1 stars
11/03/07 Dave I agree completely. This movie was awful for the reasons you listed. 1 stars
8/17/07 Don Paco I'm with Todd. Ugh. 1 stars
8/11/07 William Goss Actually makes me want to do something besides watch Elisha Cuthbert for eighty minutes. 1 stars
7/15/07 Todd Enough with the torture movies. Bring back the women in prison movies. 1 stars
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  13-Jul-2007 (R)
  DVD: 30-Oct-2007



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