Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 23 November 2008
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
After losing their young son in an off-screen accident, David and Amy Fox (Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale) have also lost all pretense of caring for each other, trading barbs whenever they speak. Reluctantly together on a final road trip before a certain divorce, Amy is groggy from a Zoloft/Prozac cocktail, while David has taken pills to stay up driving all night – and they say opposites attract. These two are masters of the art of eye rolling and exasperated exhalations.
After a near miss with a raccoon, an engine check at an ancient gas station, a BMW breakdown on a rural back road, and a sullen backtrack on foot to the alarmingly average Pinewood Motel, the Foxes find themselves in the unenviable position of staying in the honeymoon suite, Room 4, a mildewed study in pine green and dismal brown. Motel Manager Mason, (Frank Whaley) is monstrously nice to the couple.
Since the television receives no signal, the bored couple turn to a stack of unmarked videotapes for entertainment. They discover the horrific torture-murders of previous occupants within the very room they now occupy. The victims are varied; all ages and genders encounter a gruesome demise by two vicious, masked intruders. David finds several hidden cameras operating in the room, and there is a sudden, violent banging on one of the room’s adjoining doors. The killers, as seen on the videotapes, reveal themselves in the flesh, with only a wall or a window between them and the Foxes.
These masked machete wielders channel Michael Myers, Jason, Leatherface, and countless other messengers of death. You don’t have to know anything about them other than that they’ll send to you the afterworld with a calculated swipe. It is not enough to be slaughtered. You must be stalked, terrorized and taunted to get the right expression of fright on your face. Sometimes, a hand-held digital camera captures it all. Otherwise, the hidden hardware makes sure every angle is captured in living (or dying) color.
The Foxes are resourceful in using the videotapes to their advantage, and the couple’s shared plight forces them into a cohesive team. They discover rat-filled escape routes (I guess you could call them Foxholes – they are, after all, being hunted). Help is elusive and when it does arrive, is too stunned to do anything but be quickly erased from the scene.
As David, Luke Wilson is so serious about being serious that his fuller-than-usual face, at times, does not look like it belongs to him. He tries terribly hard to project a frightened intensity and determination, but comes across as a semi-crazed hypnosis volunteer who stayed under too long. He does come up with resourceful ideas under pressure, convincing his terrorized and hesitant wife to do the same.
Frank Whaley is sufficiently creepy as Mason, the obsessed motel manager. He exudes menace and ill-conceived humor, but you are loath to snicker too much. He may have a camera trained on you, the sinister geek. Norman Bates came across as more of a regular guy than this aviator eye-glass wearing, grinning rube, writhing with diabolical motives.
Kate Beckinsale is effective as Amy, the beleaguered, mourning mother and bitter wife, who now must also fight for her life. In an unglamorous role, she’s comes across as convincingly all-American. The British-born actress, whose appeal has escaped me in the past, had me firmly on her side. Not content to cower behind her man, Amy wages a fierce battle for her life, even though it would be more understandable for her to give up. She has no child to live for, a less than perfect marriage and apparently nothing to look forward to but anti-depressants and countless regrets.
Implausible actions and events occur regularly. It’s conveniently easy to trick the evildoers. Amy takes a couple of blows to the face that should have knocked her unconscious. David is even more seriously injured, but these are the Foxes and they’re clever. In spite of this, the film held my interest, and although at times predictable, put forth effort to surprise the viewer. A very abrupt ending, necessary to bypass all of the messy explanations, returned to the Psycho-inspired credits and soundtrack that opened the film.
Hungarian director Nimrod Antal (Kontroll) is very conscious of the fact that he’s plodding through well-traveled “terror-tory” here. Cliché landmines abound, and some, though not all, are refreshingly sidestepped. The pace is rapid, with few slow parts after the initial 15 minutes.
Cinematographer Andrezej Sekula (Pulp Fiction) gets a claustrophobic point across in scene after scene – an enclosed, hopeless feeling that the audience shares. People get trapped –rats run free. There’s little space, even less time, and madmen who want to destroy you just outside.
Stay or run? None of the rooms offer shelter here. Those who check into the Pinewood Motel, check out figuratively in pine wood as well (hospitality industry indeed)!