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observation notes: 100 Feet

This fine and spooky film comes to The Asylum courtesy of the great Eric Red, writer of the classic films Near Dark, Blue Steel and The Hitcher, as well as writer/director of Cohen and Tate, Body Parts and Bad Moon. He pulls double-duty on this film as well, a tale of ghostly vengeance.

A woman (Famke Janssen) who was trapped in an abusive marriage to a bully-cop (Michael Pare) managed to free herself by killing her husband. After a few years in jail, she is released to serve out the last year of her sentence under house arrest at her former home (hence an ankle-monitor that requires her to stay within the titular distance of the receiver). Problem is, the house is now haunted by the spirit of her deceased husband. And if she thought he was pissed before...

What follows is an atmospheric, intimate, intense and satisfying supernatural thriller. The story has a very classic feel - its scares relying more on suspense and pacing than shock and gore - while never feeling rehashed or stale, not for one second of one frame. It's a venerable cautionary tale refreshed for the modern era. And this is thanks to a taut script, expressive direction and stand-up performances across the board.

Famke Janssen (x-Men, Goldeneye) has always been, for my money, a pretty versatile actress, and here, as "Marnie" (a Hitchcock nod, I hope), she does nothing to dissuade this assumption; she runs an emotional gamut from cold apathy to fragile remorse, unbridled terror to fierce strength. Her performance gives this story the firm backbone it needs.

Bobby Canavale ("Third Watch," "Will & Grace," The Station Agent) plays the partner of Marnie's murdered husband, and also - spitefully on the department's part, I thought - the detective assigned to making sure she stays put. He's not a big fan of hers, as you would expect, and emotes a potent combination of condescension and indifference that as the film proceeds, evolves into a stern resolve masking a gentle, protective interior.

Michael Pare as the ghost of Marnie's husband is a purely physical performance. Aside from photographs, Pare "in person" is unrecognizable, and has no lines. But that does not detract in the slightest from what turns out to be a viscerally violent and powerful performance. When you're dealing with ghosts, pathos isn't always necessary; sometimes you can just have a scary, angry and dead son of a bitch intent on killing you - that's just how the paranormal cookie crumbles sometimes. Pare plays it simple and terrifying, and it rings true as pitch-perfect.

Also turning in a notable performance as the grocery-delivery-boy-turned-love-interest-by-default Ed Westwick ("Gossip Girl," Son of Rambow, S. Darko), who I'm always surprised to remember is British. 

Anyway, overall, I was pretty impressed with this one. In particular, the lighting was spot-on at creating the frightening ambiance the film required, and the visual effect - especially in regards to the ghost - I thought were quite effective. I'll admit to being a little wary upon learning Pare would be playing a ghost, but believe me, the visual effects team pulls it off with hella creepy aplomb. In addition to the digital stuff, the physical effects, the poltergeist-y stuff were also startling and convincing. Mr. Red set a good number of his scares during the daytime, which not only served as a nice change of pace from your typical horror films, but also allowed for some truly beautiful and effectively unsettling contrasts of light and shadow.

As for the script, it's a tough gig using only one setting, but Red makes the most of the space he's given himself, picking a labyrinthine brownstone inside the larger, metropolitan maze, and creating an atmosphere that is claustrophobic without being confining, limited in space but not in the potential of that space. And god bless him, as I took it, at least, there was a subtle tinge or two of Poe that just sweetened the pot.

So then my assessment, if you're interested, is that 100 Feet is a smart, action-packed horror-thriller that's well-told, well-paced, well-performed and all-around just well-executed. Another fine film from a fine writer/director. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know this was an Asylum movie. That's awesome! I saw it's on Instant and I've been looking forward to it for sometime...just been busy with other things. I love the plot.