Today features Senseless, a horror/thriller based on the Stona Fitch novel of the same name and starring an all-grown-up Jason Behr. If you feel weird watching little Max from Roswell get viciously and repeatedly tortured, well . . . then you obviously didn't share the same childhood fantasies I did ;-p
Senseless is by no means a brainless slasher film, or even a Saw-esque capture/survival movie. Instead it presents itself as a thinly-constructed political screed about the dangers and offenses of American-style capitalism, with international businessman Eliott Gast standing in as the whipping boy for all the wrongs our capitalist country has done. Note I said that's how it presents itself. It's not what I think it is, or even necessarily what I think it intends to be. But . . . more about that later.
Anyway, because Gast (and Americans in general) is a seen by his captors as a man of the senses, a hedonist--impressions strengthened by occasional flashbacks into Eliott's indulgent past at bazillion-dollar-a-plate restaurants, playing piano, etc.--his captors decide to strip him of his senses one by one (in deliciously painful fashion), all the while broadcasting his long captivity and torture over the internet. Yes, Eliott's a Youtube sensation! And his captors leave it up to the masses to choose whether or not to set him free. Guess what the masses say >:D
Now then, on to the Perv Scale, beneath the jump. (Note for the easily squicked and those with slow connections: I have a weirdly huge number of screencaps for this one, but they're tamer than the Eden Lake caps for sure.)
Let's begin with a quick recap if you missed or have forgotten the first post. Here are the four criteria by which movies are judged, with the first three counting for twice as much as the last one.
- Hotness of the star(s)
- How often and how thoroughly the star(s) get nekkid
- Severity of ass-kickings to which the star(s) are subjected
- And, as something of an afterthought, whether or not the movie was actually any good
Hotness: Behr scores a 7. He's not "OH MY GOD MY EYES, MY EYES!" kind of gorgeous, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. Body to die for (though sadly hardly ever shown), hair that looks so thick and soft I want to bury my hands in my computer screen, and a face he's definitely grown into since his awkward and gangly Roswell years. He has a brooding dark intensity that really pushes my buttons, and a soft, understated voice that suits this particular movie very well. He also brings beautiful nuance to expressions of fear, panic, pain, confusion, and sadness that other actors might gloss over with a single face. Much of his beauty is in his motion, so pictures and screencaps really don't do him justice.
But, meh, have some anyway (click to enlarge, and no, the tats aren't real):
Nekkidness: A sadly disappointing 2. There is exactly one topless scene that lasts for the five or so seconds it takes Gast to change his shirt. It is a lovely five seconds though, don't you think?
Ass-kickery: A perfect 10. I think there will never be another move more deliciously torturous than this one. Part of that is the realism of it all--there's nothing gratuitously gory about anything that's done to him. Part of it is also its frequency and focus, and the glee with which Mr. Bad Dude inflicts the tortures. They are lovingly and evocatively filmed, as well, not in the traditional torture-porn Saw-esque sort of way, but with a gritty arthouse feel that's often filtered through Gast's perceptions. For instance, when they puncture his eardrums, the whole world goes white, then silent, then settles into a single shrill (and painful to the watcher) note.
I have a huge number of ass-kickery screenshots. I hope you don't mind ;-) As always, click to enlarge.
|Post-torture huddle, awww.|
|Dragged out of bed in the middle of the night|
|Not going without a fight|
|Aaaaand . . . fight over|
|Why yes, that IS a cheese grater being scraped across his hand|
|I hear cheese graters hurt . . .|
|Still with the cheese grater . . .|
|Crying in the shower after he sees his hands|
|More fighting. Someone's got him in a wrist lock.|
|You plan to stick those awls where??|
|Watching Mr. Baddie "accidentally" injecting the usual pre-torture morphine onto the floor|
|This . . . probably won't end well|
|(Don't you kinda wish that was your hand?)|
Movie Quality: To be honest, this was a shockingly good movie. I had three issues with it, though only one of them was egregious enough to take away from my enjoyment. That was the climax, by the way, which, honestly, I don't even know where to begin with what was wrong with it. (Don't want to spoil you anyway, so I guess that works.) I will say, though, that the dénouement was so beautiful and touching as to erase the memory of the shit-heap that had happened just before it. As for the two smaller issues, those were the mustache-twirliness of the primary baddie, and the thinness of the film's purported message. I wonder if the book performed better in that regard, and I wouldn't be surprised if it did, because the movie focused more--and rightly so, given it's a visual medium--on Gast's ordeal rather than the reason for his being there. And when it did focus on the message, it tended to degenerate into clichéd monologues delivered with over-the-top Baddie flair.
That being said, there were some excellent lines in the movie, which was occasionally quite funny for all its viscerally realistic horrors. Here are a few of my favorites:
Right before the first torture, with Gast strapped to a chair and a clothes iron smoking nearby: "Be thankful we are not amateurs."
During an early torture, cameras on and streaming: "Scream, damn you; give the people what they want."
Gast tries to goad Mr. Baddie into killing him with the gun he's got pointed at Gast's head. Baddie says, "How should I [kill you]? . . . Maybe I should ass-fuck you to death. My thick cock would make short work of you. People will be finding this scene intriguing and disturbing, don't you think, Eliott Gast?"
During the cheese-grater scene: "If you're going to vomit, do it to your right; that's your best camera angle."
And probably the funniest scene of all: Baddie is encouraging Gast to scream for the camera (also during the cheese grater scene, which is agonizingly protracted) in clear imitation of a husband trying to guide his wife through Lamaze during labor. Baddie screams, Gast screams, Baddie waves his hand--come on, you can do it, louder!--Gast screams, Baddie screams, and so on and so forth. Despite the teeth-gritting, cringe-inducing squickiness of what's happening to Gast (though the camera mostly stays on his face rather than his hand, thank god), $100 says you'll find yourself cracking up. Or maybe because of what's happening to him you'll find yourself cracking up: much-needed comic relief, perhaps, as Gast screams and cries and begs over and over, "Please stop, it's too much!"
Which may be how a great many people feel about this movie, but I sort of don't think that's the reaction it will generally get. Yeah, it's torture-porny, but no, it's not quite torture porn in the traditional sense. Ironically, I think the director intended to make people think quite seriously about the role they play in perpetuating violence in the world--including through traditional torture porn films; I suspect that's a much truer message than the bullshit American-behemoth-crushing-the-world-beneath-its-fist line the captors were spouting. The film does appear--quite clearly to me, at least--to aspire to art. (Others may disagree.) More often than not, I think it hits that goal, but more as a psychological study than anything to do with morals or themes or purpose. (Others may disagree.) So on the quality scale, I give this one an 8.