Opening in theaters Friday, July 17th
Directed by Morgan J. Freeman
For the first half hour of this film, I was trying to figure out what kind of horror movie it was. Would it be a slasher, an I Know What You Did Last Summer-type thriller, or some kind of jilted love revenge plot? Well, it’s a little bit of the third option, but I didn’t expect it to become a blatant rip-off of Misery. This is Stephen King’s powerful story through the eyes of the WB generation.
Mike (played by Matt Long, who was the young Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider) and his girlfriend Elizabeth (played by the beautiful Jessica Stroup, The Hills Have Eyes 2) return to his hometown for, believe it or not, homecoming weekend. The school is planning to retire his football jersey (whatever that means) so the trip back is apparently a big deal. The one problem the young couple faces is that Mike’s ex Shelby (played convincingly by the equally beautiful Mischa Barton) is unaware that they have broken up. Even if they haven’t spoken in months.
Shelby’s mother died a while back so she stayed home to run the bowling alley she inherited instead of joining Mike at college. Now she is in debt and about to lose not only the bowling alley and her house, but her sanity as well when Mike arrives with his pretty new girlfriend. Jealousy boils up inside her, but she tries her best to be civil and spends the night of their first meeting getting drunk off of tequila shots with her rival. Elizabeth, severely drunk now, does not want to meet Mike’s folks the way she is, so Mike and his cousin Billy (played by journeyman character actor Michael Landes, Final Destination 2, who should have a bigger career than he does) drop her off at a motel while they head home.
She is turned away from the motel, because all the rooms are apparently booked, but is told of another motel 4 miles away. She tries her cell to call Mike, but there is no reception in the tiny country town. She tries to use the landline inside the motel, but the creepy old man has locked up. She decides to walk, and who should she run into, literally, but Shelby who accidentally runs her over because she dropped her cigarette. Shelby jumps out of the car and finds Elizabeth half-dead on the side of the road, and instead of taking her to a hospital, she drags her back to her place and administers her mother’s old drugs and IVs on her. Here is where we begin our comparisons to Misery.
Mike realizes that Elizabeth has gone missing, but is soon convinced that she drove back to their college, feeling overwhelmed by the stress of meeting his folks. Elizabeth in the meanwhile tries to escape every chance she gets, but creepy yet gorgeous Shelby is always there to stop her. There is even an audacious reenactment of the famous hobbling scene, too! With Elizabeth out of the way, Shelby starts plying her goods on Mike, hoping to convince him back into her life.
In one laughable scene, Elizabeth, who is locked in the bathroom for some reason, discovers documents taped under the lid of the toilet bowl that prove that Shelby killed her infirm mother. Why Shelby would keep such incriminating paperwork around, beside the fact that it works as character development, is beyond me, so this whole sequence felt incredibly contrived.
Shelby goes through Elizabeth’s suitcase and finds a gift that her prisoner was planning to give Mike. Shelby gives it to him, pretending it was her idea. But that innocuous coat sets off a chain of events that brings the film to its predictable conclusion when Mike discovers Elizabeth’s initials sowed into the coat with a little red heart next to it.
So, here’s the thing. This wasn’t a bad movie. Directed by Morgan J. Freeman (the guy behind American Psycho 2, not the guy who narrated March of the Penguins), the film is slickly produced and competently presented. The cast isn’t half bad, which shocks me because I figured Barton wouldn’t really be up to the task of playing crazy, but then again this is the first time I ever really see her act. Stroup plays vulnerable and sympathetic, and adds to weight to her torture/escape sequences.
The reason the film is getting low marks from me is two-fold. The first is because this is so incredibly derivative of Misery that you will find yourself anticipating things depending on how well you know the Rob Reiner film. The second and worst bit about the whole thing is that there is a lack of energy here that drags the movie down. There are bits of suspense and action, but the bulk of the film is spent in teen-drama land and there is not enough there to keep the film from sagging desperately making it kind of boring at times. This is ultimately the problem with the movie. It delivers nothing new in a boring, been-there done-it-better way.
On another note, isn’t it weird that most of the cast and the director have worked on high profile sequels? What’s up with that?