Sunday, January 18, 2009


Stuart Gordon hardly puts a foot wrong here.

This little horror gem is, one assumes, a nastiness-augmented take on the true tale of the young Texan woman called Chante Mallard, who hit a bum with her car one night, and then drove home and parked it, with the unfortunate individual still protruding from her windscreen.

I've heard a similar story about an incident here in Guatemala in which a woman found a dead body on the palangana of her pick-up after a hit and run the previous evening, but the key point here is that Suvari's character Brandi Boski has to knowingly descend into callousness.

Her starting point is therefore that much more disconcerting. We see her going the extra mile as a nurse in an old folks home. It's literally a shitty life but her whip-cracking boss is dangling the prospect of a promotion before her, and in pre-emptive celebration, she hits the club scene with a colleague. There we see her other side, and meet her other half, Rashid, a small-time dope-dealer, who isn't exactly the most potent tablet in life's little box of Es.

Meanwhile we have been introduced to Thomas Bardo, an office worker downsized just before his benefits kicked in. Forced to flee his current digs, he is ejected from the park by a diligent cop and is absent-mindedly pushing a supermarket trolley across an empty street when Brandi, ecstasy-fuelled and preoccupied with her cell, compounds his already pretty awful day by driving straight into him.

After half-hearted attempts to deposit Bardo outside A&E and later to dial 911, Brandi quicly internalises the notion that "it wasn't my fault" and that this man, already one of life's losers, has deliberately chosen to dive headfirst into her car precisely at the moment that she herself has achieved some upward momentum. As he begs for help and promises discretion, she clubs him about the head screaming "why are you doing this to me?".

The next morning after Brandi heads off to work as usual, a young boy spies the obstinately breathing Bardo in her garage, but his father refuses to get involved; they're illegal immigrants and he doesn't want the cops poking around. This could easily be a clichéd, throw-away scene but Gordon has cast it very well, and it adds a bit more chill to the highly nuanced social circumstances surrounding the collision and its aftermath.

After this the script shifts into black comedy as Brandi discovers what Rashid gets up to while she is handling bed pans, and promptly manipulates him to live up to his gangster self-image and deal with her problem for her. "Nobody gives a shit. No big deal. Anybody can do anything to anyone and get away with it," is apparently Rashid's credo, but you can tell that he's never had to explore it so fully.

There are plenty of laughs to follow but the tension, horror and all round hatefulness never lets up.

Grade: A-

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