Antagonists are only interesting if they’re original and something we haven’t seen before. Hannibal Lecter spawned a whole host of copy cats, as did every other decent serial killer film (rewatch Silence of the Lambs or early Argento and see how good they still are. The killer has a reason, however twisted their logic). Here they’re just acting ‘crazy’ or ‘nasty’ or whatever, whereas crazy people try to act sane. It’s lazy, generic ‘writing’ of the worst kind. In Sorrow these aren’t characters, they’re cardboard cut-outs. Women are picked up and killed with abandon, poorly developed characters we’re supposed to care for simply because they’re women? I don’t think so. Check out Monster and see a character that we actually have some kind of sympathy with, even if we don’t agree with her actions, because she’s developed and we understand her backstory and motivation.
When Vasquez and Mars finally meet, we get the reveal that Vasquez is “specialised in forensic psychology” and licensed with handguns. This we get with twenty minutes to go? Come on! Where was the set up to this? Suddenly she’s an expert in determining the mindset of serial killers and has compiled a report on her findings? Not that it was used in the previous hour of the film. Welcome to the world of the absurd. It’s a make-it-up-as-we-go-along method of storytelling and shows again that too many directors think they can write, a world where police characters talk about ‘standard procedure’ then take the victim to some kind of warehouse that’s supposed to be an interrogation room, but is clearly just an available location (think about how clinical the bright, white, prison cell is in “Manhunter” and how it creates a sterilised locale in which the character exists, focusing us on the performance, rather than using some cliche dark place). Low budget is no excuse for low effort. Act III is supposed to be the final lengths of the race, hurtling towards the finishing line, but we get more talk, talk, as though we’re back in a TV drama. Expositional dialogue is used to explain the victim’s backstory, then the old cliche of the Police Chief being the bad guy with his cap gun (Audio FX, people, they’re free and add to atmosphere) and the victim has really been investigating it all along. It’s all so dull beyond belief. The Chief reveals his entire history as an old fashioned James Bond villain reveals his master plan. ‘Show don’t tell’ is the way it should always be, but that would be too smart, I guess? It all gets wrapped up with a happy ending, but by this point, does anybody actually still care?
When TV shows such as Hannibal and The Following have high gore content for serial killer subject matter, it’s pretty much inexcusable for a horror film to have very little. “Sorrow” seems to aim for a PG-13 and succeeds. If you’re making a horror film, spend money on FX as the lack of blood is frustrating, cutting to black before every hit says no budget and robs the audience of crucial visuals (or is it being ‘left to our imagination’, that classic cop out). The film is too much talk, trying at times to be some post-feminist drama about relationships and offering platitudes that wouldn’t sound out of place in a fortune cookie. I expected the old chestnut “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” line to arrive on cue, as though this all elevates the horror genre to some new, deeper level. It doesn’t. It’s ponderous and boring to watch.
There are many talented women directors out there, coming up with interesting and fresh ideas. This isn’t one of those cases. The only sorrow I felt was having to watch such generic, badly written, cheaply made nonsense. A genuine waste of time.
On DVD on the 21st April
David Paul Hellings
Images provided by Brinkvision