A Horrible Way to Die is a serial killer movie. Another one, sure, but two things set it apart. Firstly, only half of the movie focuses on beardy killer-man AJ Bowen as Garrick Turrell. The other half is about his ex-girlfriend, dealing with alcoholism, and the guilt that she never noticed that her boyfriend was a serial killer (because alcoholism).
Secondly, Bowen’s killer isn’t a psychotic stabbing machine or religious nut, he’s played as almost remorseful that he does these things, that they’re beyond his control. He makes the audience feel comfortable hanging out with him, and in the film’s world he’s famous and has as many fans as detractors. Like a much more sedate Natural Born Killers.
Amy Seimetz plays Sarah, the other lead, in a story that seems unrelated for a while until you realise she has a dark past, and you’re not left with too many options as to what that could be. She spends time in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, starts hesitantly dating an awkward guy she meets there.
It’s almost like a slightly over-earnest but engaging drama in itself, but meanwhile, Garrick has escaped from a police escort and is heading towards where she lives.
Here’s the criticism bit: The film is going for a dreamlike atmosphere at times, particularly during a couple of sex scenes. The way they achieve this is by having most of the picture out of focus with blurry Christmas lights covering half the screen. It’s about as annoying as it sounds, by the second or third time they did it, I wanted to try wipe them off the screen with a cloth.
The dialogue, when it’s trying to be particularly serious, has that pattern that nobody in real life actually uses: long pause – dramatic line – long pause. And for all its grounding in reality, Bowen’s escape from the police was set up like he was Hannibal Lecter; you see a discarded paper clip and know it’s a foregone conclusion that four heavily armed policemen are about to die.
Having got that out of the way, my feelings overall are highly positive. As the two leads get closer to each other, it’s never clear what’s going to happen, or even what Bowen’s motivation is for tracking her down.
When the ending rolls around the film has had a lot to say about dependence, and how many ways you can blind yourself to the reality of what’s going on around you. It even, in its treatment of Garrick’s fame, puts on the spot how weird and creepy celebrity worship is.
Definitely worth a look.
Read our interview with A Horrible Way to Die producer Travis Stevens right Here