Friday, March 16, 2012

SPIDERHOLE (2010) - kitchen sink torture porn

With both the economy and the housing market collapsing, it’s been estimated that 11% of American homes are vacant, according to my inside source (which is Google). If people are broke and houses are empty, why not become a squatter? Sure, breaking and entering is illegal, but if there is no one living in the house, there's no one to report the crime. Sort of like how a foul didn’t occur if the referee doesn’t see it. There are ways to steal internet access from neighbors who actually pay bills, or you could just plug your laptop in at Starbucks and use up their WiFi and electricity. They’ll just pass the expense onto the customers by jacking up the price of the Pumpkin Spice Latte yet again. Squatting might also inspire one to finally get around to reading all those books you have lying around considering you can’t just sit on the couch all day and watch the Food Network. You know, people make fun of bums and rightfully so, but once in a while I think they get some shit right. You’d already know this if you’ve been paying attention to the lyrics of Tom Waits.

So, four art students decide that squatting is the way to go, and they drive around London (I know it’s not the U.S., but close enough) looking for a new home that is completely free. They don’t want to get real jobs because that would cut into their creativity time, and they exist to create, so squatting becomes a romantic solution rather than the last resort of a hobo (or maybe the first resort of a hobo). Supposedly, squatting is only unlawful in the U.K. and not actually illegal. Yeah, tell that to an angry bobby with a big stick after a couple of pints.

They happen upon what looks to be the perfect house, someplace big and classy, but inside it’s a shithole of truly epic proportions. This should probably register as a bad omen, but they are probably looking forward to a crucial cleanup montage, tastefully repainting the walls with Patrick Nagel murals (well, that’s what I would do if I was an art student fixing up an old shitty house). They move in and quickly make it home, dressing it up by tossing a Marilyn Monroe Warhol pillow on a diseased couch. Of course, they start to hear creepy noises, and later they stumble upon a closet filled with bloody clothes. Well, that’s pretty darn creepy, but they decide to just sleep off the fear and leave in the morning, and after all, it’s already deep into the night. God knows there are drunken soccer hooligans roaming the streets at this hour.

Of course, they wake up and every window and door in the house has been welded shut. I’d have probably not slept through all of that racket, but maybe they each drank a ton of Sleepy Time Tea before bedtime. Either way, that’s the setup, and you can probably guess what happens next if you’ve ever seen a movie (or even if you haven’t). I guess it’s de rigueur for the torture porn genre to have a killer with unlimited funds and teleportation skills and a cloak of invisibility and a ring of silence +5 in order that he can build elaborate traps for teenagers to succumb to. Yet the movie acts like everything is gritty and real. Maybe I’m an old fuddy duddy, but you can’t have it both ways. Either place the characters in a fantastic horror environment or place them in the real world. While we're on the subject of torture porn, maybe the most annoying thing is that these killers seem to be torturing and murdering out of some moral obligation (although less so in Spiderhole). If Jigsaw or whoever wants to torture a young woman because she’s an alcoholic, why not try talking to her instead? At the very least, see if an intervention works first. If not, THEN you can think about going ahead with the torture and the killing and the what-have-you. I know, I’m over thinking things.

This setup would seem like ripe material for a good stalker movie, even if getting there is nonsensical and forced. You have a psycho hidden in a creepy house with secret passages while the teens are desperately trying to break out. However, the teens see that the boarded windows and doors are impenetrable and are left running from room to room, and once in a while one of them mysteriously disappears, only to reappear in harms way. There is little sense of geography, and not even much in the way of simple cat and mouse antics.

Even so, the fact that the teens are British is an actual innovation within the genre (in the same way that Cold Prey was innovative in that it was a slasher movie where you had to read subtitles). Maybe I’m being generous, but such razor thin distinctions are necessary when you are analyzing a “teens in a creepy house being stalked by a killer” movie. The most interesting aspect of the movie to me was simply the juxtaposition of hot final girl Molly (Emma Griffiths Malin) with the creepy and decrepit setting. Specifically, her outfit; tight magenta jeans, a pop art jean jacket, a leopard print blouse and cowboy boots. I know some people might call that outfit tacky, but I call those people tacky.

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