Retro Review: CAPTIVITY (2007){0}

From the garish early advertising, the “accidental” firestorm that hit when the MPAA was not amused, the rating embargo, the release delays, and the “hushed tones” that inevitably arise whenever an allegedly ultra-nasty new horror flick hits the scene, After Dark and Lionsgate’s “Captivity” has been the recipient of tons of free press. If only the movie were even remotely worthy of all the discussion. What was originally slapped together to cash in on the “torture porn” sub-genre in shallow and ham-fisted fashion now arrives as the final nail in the gore-nography category. The slasher flicks died out for a while in the late ’80s — and then they came back, big-time. (For a while.) And so it now goes for the “extreme” horror stuff. Aside from Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remix and the inevitable next chapter in the “Saw” series, I bet we’ll soon be seeing a lot less of the gristly stuff. At least in theaters, and at least for a few years.

It’s not Roland Joffe’s “Captivity” that caused the demise of “torture porn,” but it does illustrate the lowest that the sub-genre has to offer. Here we have little more than a grungy-looking TV movie of the week. A “woman in peril!” potboiler that’d normally star Melissa Gilbert or Farrah Fawcett. Only instead of a TV commercial every fifteen minutes, we get a small dose of gooey gore that feels like it was wedged in after a third round of reshoots. (And don’t even get me started on the big finale, which feels so glued-on you can practically smell the fumes.) When the movie’s not being endlessly redundant and aggressively dreary, it’s being blatantly nasty just for the sake of the viscera. Had “Captivity” one whiff of something interesting to offer, the splattery stuff could make for a juicy side-dish. As it stands, the movie’s a mess, a slog, and a chore. So the “nasty stuff” is just arbitrary junk.

Elisha Cuthbert stars as a fashion model who finds herself abducted and imprisoned within a hilariously elaborate cell. The thing’s got ducts, mirrors, and cameras galore, and it’s here that our poor heroine is forced to withstand some rather unpleasant stuff. Like being force-fed a bunch of ground-up human parts. No real reason for it, really. Just something tossed on to the screen to make you go “ew.” And you probably will. Anyway, it’s not too long before our poor trapped hottie discovers a hunky man in the next cell, and as soon as this wood-block shows up, the rest of the movie (up to and including the end credits) will become
as crystal clear as an episode of “Murder She Wrote.” With gore.

What’s strangest about this draggy little flick is that it comes from director Roland Joffe, who once upon a time directed two pretty great films: 1984’s “The Killing Fields” and 1986’s “The Mission.” Between then and now he delivered a stunningly bad adaptation of “The Scarlet Letter” and some uncredited work on (brace yourself) “Super Mario Bros.” And now a very late, very boring, and very unimpressive entry in the hardcore horror department. Only the staunchest horror fans will even bother with the thing, a (small) few of ‘em will like it a bit more than
I did, and that’s about the long and the short of “Captivity.” It’s not horrific or shocking or unique in any way. Just kinda “meh.”