A Horrible Way to Die
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A Horrible Way to Die

Still courtesy of TIFF.

A Horrible Way to Die

Directed by Adam Wingard (USA, Vanguard)
Moving away from supernatural slashers and Rube Goldbergian machinations of cruelty that dominate contemporary horror cinema, Adam Wingard’s A Horrible Way to Die most closely resembles John McNaughton’s superbly disturbing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), an intimate vérité vantage on serial killing that inspired two decades’ worth of direct-to-DVD crap.
Horrible Way cuts between (well, shakily cross-blurs between) the movements of escaped serial killer Garrick (A.J. Bowen) and a young woman suffering through her third month of sobriety (Amy Seimetz). It’s soon apparent that Seimetz’s Sarah is troubled by more than just her precarious placement on the wagon, and through a series of flashbacks we discover that she and Garrick used to be a couple, and that her descent into alcoholism numbed her to his murderous moonlighting (late night “walks” and a storage locker on the edge of town may strike the more sober-minded as suspicious). Just as Sarah becomes comfortable enough to accept the advances of fellow AA member (Joe Swanberg), her past relationship comes back to haunt her, as reports of dead bodies pop up closer and closer to her hometown.
Horrible Way is mostly compelling, largely the result of the killer’s mannerly charm and Wingard’s refusal to explore his M.O., leaving us with no handy way of rationalizing his violent impulses. But shot with a relentlessly jittery-HD cam that puts Blair Witch on an even keel, A Horrible Way to Die’s incessant stylistic modishness makes it seem a bit too much like The Blurry Case of the Mumblecore Killer.
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