by Alan Bacchus, published on Friday, March 23, 2007|
Made for under $1 million, David Slades first feature overachieves as a creepy and shocking psychologically twister. Its best to experience the film without knowing too much of the plot, but I can say its a two-hander/cat-and-mouse game between a teenage girl Hayley (Ellen Page) and older male photographer Jeff (Patrick Wilson). Its horror without blood and a thriller without overt violence.
The film opens with an online seduction scene. We see only the words from an internet chat room typed onto a computer. Thonggirl14 and Lensman319 are arranging a meeting at a coffee shop. They are online flirt-friends, now taking the next step for a meeting. In the meeting we reveal, Lensman319 is Jeff, a handsome and charming 30-something photographer and Thonggirl14 is Hayley, an articulate but underage 13-year old
Surprisingly Hayley is just as forward as Jeff, and there appears to be no coercion going on as they leave for Jeffs home. Is Jeff a sexual predator? He doesnt look it, but then again, why is he going home with a 13 year old? At this point, as the audience, we arent disgusted, just curious. The playful dialogue continues at Jeffs swank home. His walls are adorned with photos of his young model-girls on the wall. Do we think Hayley is safe? Not by a long shot.
Without showing blood or gore the film is as disturbing and gruesome as any of the Saw films. The films centerpiece is a controversial squirm-inducing act of torture. But the power of the scene lies in the threat of violence and the fear of the unknown, not necessarily in the act itself. Its a time and tested horror film trick, which most horror films ignore. Director David Slade gives us an ultra-slick car commercial look. Widescreen, changing shutter speeds, slo-mo and more close-ups than Ive ever seen in a film. It certainly makes for pretty pictures, but it doesnt over power the drama. The most effective gimmick is the use of the colour palette. Painstaking efforts were put into colouring every frame appropriately using costumes, production design and post-production timing to affect mood and suspense.In fact, the colourist gets his own head credit. Hayleys red hoodie makes her stand out of the largely desaturated frame a clever allegory to Little Red Riding Hood.
The stand out of the film is the starmaking performance of Canadian Ellen Page. At only 13, she brings remarkable depth to her character both maturity and innocence. Even her expressionless face can exude confidence and inner sadness at the same time. No other actress in the world could have done this better. She will undoubtedly become a household name very soon (weve already seen her in X-Men 3 but bigger things are sure to come). Patrick Wilson is also well cast. Hes good looking, in fact, too good-looking to be a sexual predator. Therefore theres always a doubt in our minds, up until the very end that may be completely innocent of anything hes accused of in the film.
Please be warned, its not for the faint of heart, but if youre in the mood for a horror film, before you pick up Saw III, or The Hill Have Eyes, take a piece Hard Candy it will drawn you in. Enjoy.