Monday, April 20, 2009


It took us a while to come to terms with what a dog's dinner of a movie this was. The first half hour had been quite intriguing and we're both well disposed to its two main leads.

Apparently the director wanted to remind viewers of classic psychological thrillers like Don't Look Now. Instead I detected a bit of a mish-mash with elements of Bug, Memento and several seminal Asian horrors.

The experience led me to reflect on how these genre films tend to be constructed. Some screenwriters begin with a striking scenario, one that is usually pregnant with possibilities. How they choose to manage those possibilities and ultimately boil them down into just one, will determine the overall levels of tension felt during the film and the satisfaction felt at the end.

At times when the resolution itself is not implicit in the starting point (and when the writers haven't fully worked out the ending before they started scribbling) there is the potential for viewers to experience a funnel-effect in terms of emotional engagement with the narrative.

This, on the other hand, has to have been one of those stories which began as an idea for an ending (like say Sixth Sense). Everything else behind that conclusion then becomes padding. We the viewer might still experience this as a compression of possibilities, but when the conceit is the pay-off itself, the writers are generally indulging in precisely the opposite activity.

Trauma would have been a much better movie if Richard Smith had been a little bit more focused in his padding activity. He inserted too many tricky little misdirections and borrowed chiller tropes and ended up being sloppy vis-à-vis the main challenge presupposed by his plotline — maintaining credibility (and intelligibility) when anything and anyone seen on screen could either be real or a figment of the lead character's glitchy imagination.

Grade: B (-)

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