The legend of the snuff movie is a fascinating one. Despite obsessive searches by journalists and the police, there is to date not a single proven instance of such a film - where people are killed purely for entertainment, rather than being filmed being killed for another reason - existing. Yet the public fear of such films is such that it's used to justify all sorts of dubious media and political campaigns and, ultimately, even movies as bad as this.

Snuff gimmick aside, there's really very little to distinguish this film. It's a made-for-TV, movie-of-the-week type effort in horror drag, hoping to disguise its lame plot with lots of shouting and running around. Essentially, the story is this: a young couple, lost in the middle of nowhere, check into a seedy motel, discover they've been set up to be the victims in a snuff movie, and try to escape. And, um, that's it. Kate Beckinsale screams a lot and the grating soundtrack keeps thumping away in maximum alert mode, but nothing really happens.

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One interesting thing about this particular young couple is that they're on the brink of divorce, and in places this is handled well, but one can't help but feel the film would be more interesting if it concentrated on this instead of on their hysteria. The gimmick about their having lost a child is just a tacky substitute for depth of character which is never intelligently explored - thus we miss out on the chance to see why this couple might be different from all the other people who've been killed in the room before. When we see clips of these people, they're even more ineffectual than our heroes. Dolled up like Seventies porn stars, they flap their arms about and take it in turns waiting to be killed like so many Persian soldiers going up against the Spartan 300. It never seems to occur to anyone to fight back, they're so hopelessly intimidated by the bad guys' bad make-up.

The only bad guy worth watching in this film is Frank Whaley as the motel manager. He's clearly realised he's in a turkey and has decided to make the most of it, delivering a gloriously demented performance which never takes itself seriously for a second. Though it's difficult to imagine being scared of him, he is lots of fun. Luke Wilson turns in a passable performance as the everyman husband who occasionally manages to come up with bright ideas, but it's clear from the start that the film wants to set him aside so it can get on with the business of developing Beckinsale's Amy as Final Girl. Unfortunately, she doesn't really have a character to develop. For most of the film she does nothing but whine and provide an excuse for exposition, and when she finally stands up for herself - needing to be literally thrown into that position - it's in such a simple, reflexive way that it can hardly be said to indicate any kind of personal shift.

"They'll keep watching until they get bored," says Wilson's character about halfway through (by which time one of my fellow reviewers had already started playing Snake on her phone). "They'll want this to be over soon." How right he is.

Reviewed on: 12 Jun 2007
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A young couple take a room in a motel only to discover that they've been set up to star in a snuff film.
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Anton Bitel ***1/2

Director: Nimród Antal

Writer: Mark L. Smith

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry, Scott G. Anderson, Mark Casella, David Doty, Norm Compton, Caryn Mower, Meegan Godfrey, Kym Stys

Year: 2007

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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Snuff Movie