There's a lot of things
you can say about "Brutal". One look at the box practically
screams "Torture porn ahead!" The plot synopsis on the
back is no help at all. But once you get past the heavily flawed
box, what you find inside is a strange little package of ups and
downs, of what might have been and what might be great.
What Wiley has brought
forth is the story of several attractive young women, kidnapped
and messily killed with various tools and implements and suchlike--including
hedge clippers. Which I have to give Wiley some kudos for--I can't
recall the last time I saw murder by hedge clippers. And of course,
the murders are drawing attention from local law enforcement,
one member of which august body happens to be, surprise surprise,
an attractive young woman herself. Which means not only will said
attractive young woman be chasing our garden implement killer,
but also will likely be his target.
There's a lot to hate
about "Brutal". Wiley's work is frequently shot in conditions
so dark that making out details is hard to follow. His characters
occasionally look like floating heads. His plotline is just one
long string of repetition--kill shapely co-ed, police try to catch
up, kill, catch, repeat until end of film or budget, whichever
comes first. Nothing that hasn't been seen and laughed out of
the business before.
And yet, "Brutal"
is not without its pluses. The foresight to include Jeffrey Combs
gives me a little more respect for "Brutal". I can't
fault the inclusion of Jeffrey Combs under any circumstances because
the man turns in a good performance no matter what he's in.
I also have to give
some respect to Wiley's clever "murdericus interruptus"
scene. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say
that something actually gets to one victim before the killer does.
Further, he's tacked
on an interesting subplot involving an adulterous sheriff in the
midst of a reelection campaign, and some truly baffling attachments
It's sad. It's truly
very sad. Wiley could have been pretty clever, but his clever
work is buried under convention and missteps so deep you could
almost call it torture porn and not be too far off!
Perhaps I'm being uncharitable.
Perhaps "Brutal" only has elements of torture porn.
Sure, every chick in this film turns out to be a skank, an adulteress,
or a thief in skank's clothing. Sure, we're spending a whole lot
of time on hunt-and-kill. Sure, that shot with the hedge trimmer
went on maybe a bit too long.
So maybe, in the end,
it's just torture softcore.
The ending isn't half
bad, but I'm still not very satisfied by the whole proceeding.
Fibonacci sequences as a plot device? Come on, Wiley, that's stretching
things a bit.
The special features
include Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, a behind the
scenes featurette, a still gallery, and trailers for "Chicago
Massacre: Richard Speck", "Drive Thru", "Curse
of the Zodiac", "The Abandoned", "H.P. Lovecraft's
The Tomb", "Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield"
and "Diary of a Cannibal".
All in all, "Brutal"
is pioneering. A subgenre of a subgenre, and maybe one of the
first examples of torture softcore to come out of the torture
porn collapse, "Brutal" has some excellent points to
it, but they're lost in a morass of poor visibility and a plot
too heavily reliant on more-of-the-same. Though heavily flawed,
there's enough good in "Brutal" to make me wonder just
what Ethan Wiley's true capability is.
Directed by Ethan Wiley
Written by Ethan Wiley
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Michael Berryman, Sarah Thompson, Eric
Produced by Roel Reine, Ethan Wiley
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