Experiencing the darkness
In just the first six minutes of the film we get to watch two violent rapes, a brutal asphyxiation and some seemingly unsimulated fellatio, and somehow none of it feels very exploitative. Rather, it's an insight into the world of our heroine (Rodleen Getsic), a stick-thin prostitute moving from john to john, crying in the shower when she's not urinating in the street. Fueled by the drugs she snorts up her nose, she's a complete mess, but somehow Getsic manages to make her sympathetic, mostly via her emotive eyes, which suggest far more innocence than she's seen to be capable of. As we've come to learn from television and movies, life for women like her is not easy and often quite brief, and when she propositions a grizzly trucker (Jeff Renfro), things go south in a big, big hurry.
Drugging and keeping her captive in the back of his big rig, the trucker quickly reveals himself to be a complete lunatic, also hopped up on drugs, like a low-rent Frank Booth. Once her imprisonment begins, the audience is also trapped, watching as he sadistically tortures her. It never gets gory, but it's frightening nonetheless, as he abuses her in numerous ways, including the use of a branding iron and some intensely disturbing psychological assaults. One lengthy segment where she's unconscious as he toys with her limp body is severely uncomfortable, while another scene involving a plastic bag may be the most horrific moment I've ever seen in a movie, to the point where I had to look away. Renfro is perfectly terrifying as the trucker (one brief moment where he looks at the camera through a mask is chilling), while Getsic portrays the damage inflicted from such treatment in an unhinged mania that's impressive and disturbing.
Part of her success has to be tied to the fact that the movie is real, as writer/director Adam Rehmeier worked with his small cast to create a real horror film where the darkness on-screen actually happened, including the violence, branding and sex. While that leaves the movie just this side of a snuff film, it also resulted in a wickedly revolting movie. Combine the performances and subject matter with Rehmeier's obvious control of the camera and music, and the results are striking and haunting, as the black and white images will stick with you for some time. Many parts of the movie, with its thudding, dread-inducing score, quick cuts and harsh lighting, will feel familiar, like it's an old Nine Inch Nails video.
Rehmeier also chose to not tell the story linearly, using flashbacks to reveal more about the trucker and his plaything, and foreshadow what was to come, making for an arresting, if somewhat mixed-up experience. Perhaps it was intentional, but many parts of the film drag on, repeating themselves and outstaying their welcome, making you wish the horror would stop so you could experience something new. If this was because the filmmaker wanted to subject viewers to the same unrelenting horror as the poor prostitute, then fine, mission accomplished, but, at 76 minutes, one could see this as an overlong short in need of a good trim, and with the limited story told, not much would have been missed. Like many experimental films, this is not so much about the tale but the journey.
This is a flick that somewhat lives and dies with the sound, as the audio blitz of a score really gives many of the psychotic montages their power. Thus, the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a bit of a let-down, as you'd want to drown in the blend of sound in this movie, but instead get a rather simple center-balanced presentation.
A making-of feature, "Caretaking the Monster" (16:30) doesn't offer any footage of the low-budget production (since it was a skeleton crew on-set) but it tells the story of the production through interviews with most of the cast, including an actor who pulled out at the last minute, which changed the entire storyline. There's a lot about the difficulties in shooting the film, and some pretty intense statements that show how invested the actors were in the movie.
The remaining extras include two trailers for the film, one that's really well-made and impactful, while the other has critic quotes jammed in, along with a slideshow featuring four posters for the film and a slew of stills.
The Bottom Line