112 min., 2010
Written by Scott Milam
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
My rating: ★★★★
Sometimes the best gifts are hostages.
* * *
This film, with a few well-placed scenes here and there could be a sequel to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle without even trying. I don’t actually mean that as a bad thing. For a straight to DVD release, you would expect some bargain basement slasher flick with one outdated has been and a plethora of glossy eyed teens who when to the Gary Busey acting academy. This, however, would have stood its ground quite nicely if it had an extended theater release, especially when you consider its only opposition would have been a vampire slaying president or yet another board game turned box office hit. That is, of course, if there aren’t any angsty teen flicks or remakes waiting to take something that stopped being popular before Bush Senior took office. Even without these lame cinematic attempts to compare it to for quality sake, I would predict this ending up as a cult classic. The reason for this is 3 words, one name: Rebecca De Mornay. Even though you only see her for 10 seconds at the beginning of the movie, it opens with her stealing a baby from a hospital maternity ward. That seen of course ending with one of her “sons” taking out the lone night guard. Her ability to retain this menacing quality that hints at a type of rage that she keeps in check with pin point accuracy and terrifying discipline. The director for this is Darren Lynn Bousman, who totally pwned the 3 follow ups to the original Saw as well as Repo: The Genetic Opera, shot this in a way that made each creepy ass scene seem like it was happening someplace you could feel warm, comfortable, and that someone would bring you a nice cup of chamomile tea to calm your nerves after a rough day.
The plot centers around this baby stealing matriarch named Natalie Koffin, her 3 criminal sons, and her daughter. You would think this is one of those bank robbery movies since that’s exactly what the 3 males do and while that element is present it is not the type of film you are setting out to see. One of the sons gets himself shot during the robbery and when the eldest son tries to call their mother and can’t reach her they decide to head back to their childhood home so they can get their little brother help and some much needed instruction. To their surprise, the house is now occupied by people they don’t know hosting a get together for several of their friends. The two owners of the house are then taken hostage until mother arrives. One of the guests named George, played by Shawn Ashmore, whom you might remember as “Iceman” from X-Men, or in keeping with the horror genre, the movie Frozen from 2010 or The Ruins, coincidentally is a doctor and is now in service to these gunmen for the soul purpose of saving their brother.
All the other characters, as expendable as they may seem, happen to become respected guests in a matter of moments once mother comes in a sets down the rules. The owners of the house, Beth and Daniel seem to be having a rough go of it already, having recently lost a son and Beth being certain that Daniel is cheating on her. None of this actually comes up by their own admission. De Mornay’s character just seems to have that motherly instinct you’d expect from a proper parent that’s actually in tune with their kids. She lets them know this hostage thing is purely temporary and should be resolved by 8 o’clock so her and her boys can honestly just leave. Long story short, their cooperation comes in the form of them providing the financial backing for their little vacation south of the border. It’s at this point that the eldest son brings to mother’s attention that even though she hasn’t lived there for several months they has still been sending money her way to make sure she was taken care of.
Now there is one thing mother can’t abide and that’s a liar. So, after asking Daniel and Beth if any mail has come there for her, she believes Beth but thinks Daniel may not be being so honest. So, after bashing his hand in with a cue ball and still getting no admission of guilty they collect the credit cards from the rooms occupants and sent Beth on a little cash run with the eldest son to bring back the ten grand they need to jump the border. Despite the fact that Beth and Daniel know their roles, Beth to return by 8 pm with the money and Daniel to keep order over the guests in the basement, neither seems capable of the task. The token black couple in the basement, one Treshawn Jackson and his wife Gina (why do I want to make a “Martin” reference right now) are dead set on making things difficult. Apparently trying to cast off the bonds of his white oppressors, stashes some pools balls in a sock and whenever they aren’t looking tries to get the storm doors off the basement by unscrewing the hinges. Since Daniel wants his wife back, he is willing to play ball. The rest of the guests, however, keep trying to revolt or escape driving the body count every ten to fifteen minutes or so. Shawn Ashmore’s character keeps driving for some dissension in the ranks by pointing out to the sister how their loving mother has kept them in check using a combination of isolation, lies, and scare tactics. Beth, while on the outside, has tried to fight or escape the eldest son enough to result in the deaths of two random women and a cop all between some ATM runs and a stop the empty the safe of one of the guests. The movie concludes after a lot more awesomeness which I will urge you to witness for yourself and several very nice death scenes with the house being set ablaze, the mother making an escape, and Beth concealing several secrets. One of which is that she had the money all along and was using it or at least intended to use it to keep her other secrets. That ominous enough for you? At the very end, you see De Mornay up to her old tricks cooing at another baby and riding off in the family RV into the sunset.
The acting from everyone I would say was appropriate for the moment or absolutely riveting. The only exception to this rule was one of the wild and uncontrollable brothers played by Warren Kole. He was on The Chicago Code but you can catch him now on the show Common Law. He was honestly trying too hard, in my opinion, to play the crazy off the handle nut job making him come off more comedic and goofy than menacing or threatening in any way. The only other performance I found a little sketchy was the brother who had been shot, Johnny Koffin, played by Matt O’Leary. All he does for the majority of the film is writhe, moan, and wail, which would be fine since he took a shot gun blast to the right side of his chest. However, it’s the high pitched keening of that whine that makes it far more irritating that entertaining. Barring these two instances, the acting is pretty dead on. The suspense is truly there rather than being manufactured and its overall something I would watch a couple more times if given the opportunity. I would honestly recommend watching this directly after watching The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and just telling yourself she somehow miraculously survived and decided to lay low for a while before continuing her kid collecting escapades. I truly hope you’ve enjoyed the review and I’ll see you next time. Until then, may all your films bring fright.Have You Read...?