Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Ignacia Allamand, Aaron Burns, Colleen Camp
Written by: Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo and Nicholas Lopez
Running Time: 99 mins
Release date: 26th June 2015
It has to be said that the expectations for this film were very low. Firstly, the director, Eli Roth, is the king of torture porn, that style of horror where anything goes and is shown in graphic detail. Secondly, the central story sounds like the kind of sexploitation film they use to make in the 70’s, where male fantasies take a nasty and violent turn for the worst. What I wasn’t expecting was a more restrained Roth in the gore department and a film that relied more on tension building than out-and-out shocks.
Evan is an architect, a doting father and loving husband to his artist wife, Karen. She decides to take the kids out-of-town for the weekend in order for Evan to work all alone in their isolated Hollywood home. During the night, in a heavy storm, there’s a knock at his door. Opening it, he is confronted by Genesis and Bel, two pretty young girls, soaked to the skin and completely lost. Being the knight in shining armour, he invites them in to wait for a cab. After some harmless flirting and underlining sexual tension, Evan cannot refuse temptation any longer and the three become involved in a night of lust. What Evan doesn’t know is the girls have more than sex on their minds and a deadly game begins to play out.
Roth has always been a director who loves to shock. With films like Cabin Fever and Hostel behind him, he hasn’t done a great deal since, hiding behind low-budget schlock horrors instead. This is, without a doubt, his most accessible film to date, a mix of Fatal Attraction with Funny Games. It takes the premise of a 70’s exploitation film, Death Game, which sees man being offered temptation only to pay the consequences after and brings it right up to the 21st Century by making it relevant to the times we are living in now, where accusations of pedophilia causes shudders down the spine of most and where nothing is private any more, with social networking and mobile phones can store a thousand secrets to the public.
What Roth manages to do is build up the tension. we know something is going to happen between the three main protagonists, it’s only a matter of time. The big question is, when. He doesn’t jump in feet first. Instead, the flirtations are built upon meticulously as we witness Evan becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the girls advances that it’s almost like watching him boiling to fever pitch, that when the temptation becomes too much, he cannot say no. What Roth also does is gives us a brief few moments of their night of passion but doesn’t dwell on it like some peeping tom. Instead he is far more interested in the aftermath. What the girls are going to do next.
This is when the film really comes into its own. Seeing this man, who realises he has done wrong and is already riddled with guilt, being tortured by two seemingly innocent girls who trap him in their net and refuse to let go. Claiming to be underage, they taunt him, physically abuse him, even use violence against him and he seem almost helpless. It also builds to a very satisfying finale where you think one thing is going to happen but Roth takes us into a whole new dimension.
The cast, mainly consisting of the three characters, do a terrific job. Keanu Reeves, playing completely against type, is allowed much more opportunity to “act” and even though you can see his limitations, he goes for it hell for leather. Yet the film belongs much more to Lorenza Izzo (Mrs Eli Roth) and Ana de Armas. As Genesis and Bel, these two wide-eyed, flirty beauties are the devils in disguise, being as evil and manipulative as they can be, to the point of being one step ahead of the male, a rare move in an Eli Roth film.
It’s far from perfect and the scene in which Reeves delivers a speech comparing his act of infidelity to free pizza is worth the admission fee alone. Some will still see it as a sleazy, exploitation film but this is far more intelligent and clever in its sexual politics than, say, Fifty Shades Of Grey. Dark, shocking, sometimes comic, it could become an instant cult classic.