Capture Kill Release
A couple plots to murder a random stranger just for the thrill of it, but things turn ugly when one of them decides not to go through with it.
Brian Allan Stewart
It’s another found footage film, folks – but an example of the now-more-common sub-sub-genre (no that’s not a typo) – the first person POV film.
It’s not only found footage, it’s also rife with tropes seen in most torture porn – my most despised enemy. I dislike torture porn (and any of its close cousins) almost as much as badly-done found footage.
The film starts with a call-out to the Leopold and Loeb case of the ‘30s (like this year’s French film Fever and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rope), as a young, seemingly normal married couple make plans to kill a random stranger – to see how it feels, to see if they can get away with it and as we’ll see – if their relationship can handle this odd new stress. Farhang and Jen (played by Farhang Ghajar and Jennifer Fraser; respectively) get a new camera and have decided to document the entire process as they prepare their basement bathroom for the eventual messy clean-up, shop for weapons at a local hardware store, narrow down possible victims and chat/brainstorm all about it in bed each night. The immediate question this raises – what if these recordings get into the hands of the authorities?
There are basically three leads in the film – Farhang and Jen and a homeless guy named Gary (played by Jon Gates).
As Jen, Fraser perfectly captures what is meant to be a despised character. The character is pushy, manipulative and ultimately a sociopath. I found it interesting that a lovely young woman could so easily pull off such a nasty and heartless human being, but then again – I’m also reminded of a line from the 1987 Debra Winger/Theresa Russell film Black Widow, where Winger’s character is heard to say, “What part do you think the woman’s not up to doing? The seduction or the murder?” Well said, and it proves my point. Psycho women are very much around in horror/thrillers (Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and this year’s The Eyes of My Mother), but they’ve never been as prominently featured as men. So for the unease and disgust Fraser is able to instill in the audience – and this may sound sexist – and the fact that she’s a “fragile woman” – you have to give mad props to her very successful performance. Jen the character – is someone you’ll quickly grow to hate.
As the long-suffering husband, Ghajar certainly makes us believe that his character of Farhang is interested in the couple’s mutual, devious plan. But when he begins to show doubts, I took the actor at his word. Again, it comes down to a fine line of willing suspension of disbelief matched up against zero character sympathies. By the time Farhang realizes his mistake, we already hate him – perhaps more-so than his awful wife. He’s a wimp and he’s an enabler – and Ghajar sells it.
And with these looks at the two lead characters (and not the effective performances) I take you back to the tried-n-true support beams of any film (found footage or not) – we need to care about someone and we need to feel invested in a personality we see on the screen. These are both such despicable characters – each for very different reasons. And what then comes to light with that observation, is that the actors have done a fine job persuading the audience to dislike them. But don’t we need to like someone? Don’t we need to care? If that’s the case, even the most authentic and disturbing performances can’t overcome the fact that – in the end – I could give two shits about any of them.
But there is one small doorway into sympathy, and that is the homeless guy named Gary, who Jen films and befriends – eventually inviting him back to her home, promising food and a hot shower. Even with those few lines of description, you can see where that might lead. It goes back to my overall feeling that this film is just mean. Gary is a very likeable character, but he is not our protagonist. And we don’t follow his journey, we simply feel pity.
Again, neither of the two lead characters are redeemable. Jen is clearly the pants-wearer in this relationship, and the clues to Farhang that his wife might be “a little off” – which are continually ignored by Farhang – only make us wish he were not such a blind pushover. Indeed, as referenced above in the Black Widow quote, this is a film about seduction – Jen’s seduction of her husband Farhang.
There is also the genuine problem that the film doesn’t know when to quit. There were too many false endings – plenty of moments where the “mic drop” was reasonably effective and the screen cuts to black – only to have the picture rematerialize, thus forcing us to endure additional (and wholly unnessecary) torture porn nonsense.
The bottom line here, is that I greatly disliked this film. I found it mean-spirited and tasteless and many times, difficult to ingest. In other words, the film succeeded on levels which pushed buttons, but I don’t believe I wanted those buttons pushed.
So the discussion of how to rate the film is now at hand. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience. It made me angry and upset. But the fact that it stirred such emotions – makes it worthy of praise, right?
It comes down to this – and I don’t believe I’ve ever had such a struggle when reviewing any film… I have to give kudos where kudos are deserved. I think a solid 4-star rating is in order. But let me be clear, I did not like this film – at all.
Solid performances in what amounts to a found footage torture porn exercise – doesn’t instill enjoyment, but it does instill technical admiration. I guess you can understand that a film worked on certain levels and still wish you’d never seen it.
Capture Kill Release is on the festival circuit, but no wider release information is currently available.