Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stuck (2008)

When I first sat down to watch Stuck, I must admit I was skeptical of the film.  Surely director Stuart Gordon is a master of horror, having filmed such films like Reanimator, Castle Freak and Edmond, but a film that features a guy stuck in a windshield for most of its running time sounded rather dull to me, though the true story that the film is based on is downright chilling. Just see the Wikipedia entry on it below:

Chante Jawan Mallard is an African American woman from Texas who was convicted and sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment for her role in the death of a 37 year old homeless man, Gregory Biggs.

The incident occurred on October 26, 2001 when Mallard’s car struck him; at the time Mallard was believed to have been driving while intoxicated by drugs and alcohol. The force of the impact sent Biggs flying through the windshield, lodging him there.

Mallard then drove home, leaving the injured Biggs stuck in her windshield, and parked her car in her garage. She then went inside, had sex with her boyfriend, and over the next day or so checked on the man still stuck in her windshield. After the accident Mallard did not notify the police or get Biggs any medical attention. 
The film follows the true story pretty accurately with the exception of characters changed and a very different conclusion to the true life tale. Brandi (Mena Suvari) works in a nursing home and is on the verge of a major promotion. She goes out that night to celebrate with her drug-dealing boyfriend and best friend, but parties a little too hard and while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, hits down-on-his-luck Thomas Bardo (Stephen Rea), who is crossing the street. Bardo crashes through her windshield and remains lodged there. Panicked, Brandi heads home and leaves the bloodied Bardo stuck in her windshield for the night…Though she promises to get help, Brandi tries to figure out a way to get rid of Bardo while Bardo tries to escape.

Stuart Gordon is back to fine form with the exquisitely gripping Stuck. It is a suspenseful and horrifying film that is unrelenting from its first few scenes to its explosive finale. I didn’t have high expectations of this film going in, but it thoroughly impressed me with its conflicted, well-developed characters, stellar acting and fast pacing.

First off, the characters are very well rounded out and presented as extremely sympathetic. First, you have Thomas Bardo who is currently unemployed and has been kicked out of the skeevy hotel he was staying at. At an employment office he waits for hours for an appointment before being told he isn’t in the computer so they can’t help him. With no place to go and no money, he tries to sleep on a park bench but he is kicked out by a police officer. As if his day couldn’t get any worse, he is then hit by Brandi and sails through her windshield. While Brandi is set up to be the villain in this film, we can’t help but feel for her too. She is genuinely sweet to her patients at the nursing home and really cares for them. When she hits Bardo she has the very human reaction of covering up her mistake instead of ‘fessing up to it. We also feel bad for her when she is reprimanded by her slimy superior. When Brandi and Bardo go head-to-head, you really are at a loss as to who to root for, because both are sympathetic characters. Of course, Bardo wins our sympathies in the end because Brandi is basically just letting him die.

As for the acting, that is the absolute highlight of the film. I’m not a big Mena Suvari fan and I wasn’t diggin’ the whole ghetto-fabulous-wannabe/corn-row look, but she played the character of Brandi just right, with the perfect balance of sweetness and venom, cluelessness and resolve. The actor that really stole the show, though, was Stephen Rea as Thomas Bardo. Without him, I don’t think the film would have been as effective. He absolutely captures the forlorn desperation of Bardo and makes it easy to root for him.

While I thought this film’s storyline would be its weakest point, it actually impressed me. Gordon paces the film so that it’s packed with suspense and there isn’t a second to be bored. There’s always that tug-of-war between Brandi and Bardo that keeps things tense, but other characters added to the mix, like Brandi’s boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby) and her friend Tanya (Rukiya Bernard), really give the movie additional depth and complexity. There is also plenty of black humor that will have you chuckling throughout the horrifying ordeal.

And horrifying it is…the fact that the story is rooted in reality adds to the ugly truth of human nature and shows us just how nasty we can get when it comes to our own preservation. Not only that, but there are several cringe-worthy scenes, including the car crash in slow motion, which shows Bardo’s leg snapping against the grill and him going through the windshield, many of which are drenched in blood. Though the film probably won’t satisfy gorehounds out for a cheap thrill, the gore portrayed is very realistic and works extremely well for the film.

Stuck is an unrelenting and thrilling cinematic horrorshow that shows us just how low people are willing to go to save their own skin and that your bad day can always get worse…

Available from Amazon!

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