Captivity (2007) / Thriller-Horror

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, torture, pervasive terror, grisly images, language and some sexual material
Running time: 85 min.

Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gillies, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Laz Alonso, Michael Harney, Rebekah Ryan
Director: Roland Joffe
Screenplay: Larry Cohen, Joseph Tura

Review published June 30, 2007

One of my staple gags in many of my reviews is in coming up with an alternate title that would be more fitting than the one chosen.  In the case of Captivity, I think they pretty much nailed it.  There's probably no other word to describe how I felt as 85 minutes rolled on by, with absolutely nothing worthwhile to show for the experience except a great deal of belly laughs on my part at the film's expense.  It's not that I find movies about psychological and physical torture to be funny in and of themselves.  I just find bad movies where the filmmakers think they are clever, only to bumble every step of the way, to be the height of hilarity.  Of course, they'll ultimately get the last laugh, as there are people who actually would shell out money to see utter crapola like Captivity, which, sadly (for me), means I'll have to endure even more of the stupid, torture shock and schlock trend in horror movies for much longer than I can stomach to think about.

Elisha Cuthbert (House of Wax, The Girl Next Door) plays stuck-up fashion model Jennifer Tree, who is drugged and abducted by an unknown stalker, waking up to find herself in bondage in some sort of dark, dank, and depressing torture room.  Metal drawers and wildly designed contraptions control her world, as the unknown captor communicates to her through nondescript messages cut out from magazines.  She tries to get away, but immediately fears for her life when she is shown the torture and killing of previous victims who were subject to the same treatment.  As dreary as things seem, she finds one glimmer of hope -- she isn't the only captive alive in the room.

I hesitate to call Captivity a movie.  It's basically nothing more than a prolonged episode of "Fear Factor" followed by about 20 minutes of predictably stupid epilogue.  It's hard to review a film like this without having the slightest inkling as to why anyone finds this sort of thing entertaining.  I know there are those who just like to be scared out there.  I also know that there are people out there who would rather see wanton violence and sexuality over story and characters.  All I have to do is look at the box office receipts for damn near every horror film given a wide release.  I can't understand what makes people find a woman tortured for over an hour to be entertaining, so I'm not even going to try.

If you want to know what the experience of Captivity is like, here it is in a nutshell: Jennifer Tree cheesecake photo shoots, bondage, psychological torture, Jennifer being sprayed in the face and mouth with animal guts on a couple of occasions, a discovery of another man in captivity, some silly flirtations between the two captives, escape plans gone awry, and plot twists that only those completely out of tune with what's going on will not have seen coming from the get-go.  Actually, here's a better recap: dumb, dumb, really dumb, headache-inducing imbecility, laughably awful stupidity, and, finally, the glorious end credits. 

As major studios have supplanted true horror films in recent years with low-budget ideas that do little than to press buttons of titillation for 90 minutes, I think that movie theaters should start coming equipped with additional items to make the movie-going experience complete: barf bags for the squeamish and shower facilities to wash away the ill feelings afterward once the repugnant experience is over. 

Roland Joffe, once the acclaimed director of such award-winners as The Killing Fields and The Mission, seems to be in a career tailspin, the likes of which he may never come out of if he thinks he turned in a worthy effort with Captivity.  Just for one example of how stupid the film is: Jennifer is shown a piece of film that is, ostensibly, home movie footage of the captor as a child killing his own mother. Funny thing is that this "home movie" is edited like a real movie would be, with different angles and edits spliced together of the event.  We find out later that there was another person in the room witnessing the event, but it's not one of the two or three camera operators who would have also needed to be in the room to capture the priceless moments.  How are we not supposed to laugh?  Such a shame that Joffe plays everything without even a trace of the black humor that could have made it palatable.  

Unless you're one of those pasty-skinned weirdoes that rarely ventures out of mother's cellar, getting off on anything and everything with a "torture porn" label on it (usually exacting violence on the very same "hot chicks" that would never give you the time of day), my advice is to veer as far away from this one as possible.

By the way, here are my alternate titles, just for the hell of it: Crap-tivity, Feces of Death, Botched Execution, See Saw (Again), Hostel Take Over, and Yet Another Stake Driven Through the Heart of Contemporary Cinema.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo