I’ll fully acknowledge the blurbs on this poster are highly generic and given their sources they are to be inherently distrusted, but listen to me when I tell you that this is a good movie. Garrick Turell is a convicted serial who has recently broken out of jail and is on a quest to get back to his ex-girlfriend Sarah (Amy Seimetz, The Killing and You’re Next). Sarah has moved to a new town to start a fresh life after having turned Garrick in. A Horrible Way to Die tells their individual stories as they find their way back into each others lives. Garrick’s story tells of the carnage left in the wake of his escape. Sarah’s story focuses on her attempts to overcome her alcoholism and her budding relationship with fellow AA member Kevin (Joe Swanberg, V/H/S). At first, we are led to believe that she became a drinker because of her relationship with GarricK (A.J. Bowen, House of the Devil and You’re Next) but we soon find out she spent most of that relationship drunk. There are little scenes interspersed throughout the plot that give us a bit of insight into their time together. We find out that both of them had addiction issues. Only Garrick’s addiction is killing people, which led to Sarah turning him in. A.J. Bowen does a great job in the lead role of Garrick. I really dug him in House of the Devil, and he plays the same type of character here. He’s quiet, polite, soft-spoken but lashes out with sudden bursts of cringe inducing violence. He seemingly laments his compulsion to kill but feels helpless to stop it, which makes a nice contrast with Sarah’s fighting tooth and nail to contain her alcoholism. I love the character work he does here. There are layers to him and we never quite know what he is feeling or what his end goal is until the very end.
Adam Winguard (V/H/S 1 & 2, You’re Next) directs the film in an emotionally distant way to add to the unnerving atmosphere. At first, I found this annoying but then it started to work for me. Garrick driving down lonely stretches of road and Sarah trying to put her new life together fit the directorial style. However, Winguard has this annoying habit of making the camera spin around and go side to side and up and down as though the camera was being operated by someone with down’s syndrome. I get that the film was trying to put us into the confused state of mind of the characters, but given that none of the characters were suffering from motion sickness, I felt it unnecessary and done way too often. Other than that, the distant style and grisly subject matter reminded me of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. I did have some issue with the writing as well such as why the police wouldn’t contact Sarah to let her know Garrick had escaped or why she wouldn’t go into police protection when she found out, but then the story took a twist that I really liked and made me forgive these oversights.
Slasher fans will find a lot to like as there is quite a bit of gore. A few of the kills we only see the aftermath, but that doesn’t dilute the power of them. The kills we do see are rather nasty including one outside of a bar that is very cringe worthy. The bleak tone of the film adds a lot to these scenes (and vice-versa).
Winguard is fast establishing himself as a true player in the new league of horror directors. I have yet to see You’re Next, but I als have yet to see something he’s involved with that I haven’t liked. Yeah, some of it may be flawed, but it’s not like Ti West’s output of arguably one good movie. A Horrible Way to Die is currently streaming on Netflix (which for some reason lists the film as PG-13) and you should be watching it right now. It’s not too often I finish a film and instantly want to start it over, but that’s the feeling I was left with here. I loved this movie.