First, I want to mention how very much it amuses me to read review after review proclaiming that Captivity is such a filthy pit of swill that not even the most stalwart masochist could possibly suffer through it, and that it so wholly lacks even a trace of invention that it surely must mark the end of the torture porn genre.

Would that it were so, my little children! But history teaches us otherwise, and given that I'm currently ass-deep in that history, I feel safe in decreeing that no, we are not on the cusp of the end of the torture film. Since 1979, remember, the slasher film has either died or looked to die four separate times: in mid-1984, in 1989, in 1995 (really, those six years were just one long death-spasm) and around 2002 or so, when J-Horror remakes and knock-offs hit the stage. And God only knows if Rob Zombie's Halloween or the proposed Friday the 13th, Part XI (GODDAMNIT) will re-ignite a fifth fucking phase of the damn things.

My point being: the torture film has only been around for four years. It has a lot of death and rebirth to come, especially with Saw IV in the wings.

I can understand, though, wanting Captivity to signify something, because even in the fetid swamp of the torture porn genre, it stands out as a particularly awful movie. Not a particularly disgusting or immoral movie; just a flat-out badly made film. Every time the moral scolds and defenders of human decency get all engorged with rage over the latest new torture film, as we saw with Hostel, Part II and we see again here, I grow a little bit less sympathetic to their whining. Are these two films pleasant? Not at all! But anyone who managed to keep quiet about Saw III doesn't get to say word one about Captivity, which is if anything the most demure film that the genre has yet witnessed, morally if not viscerally. Hell, most '80s slasher films are nastier than Captivity. That's frankly one of the problems with the new film, although certainly not the only one.

I should not be so mean to the viewers who are completely put off by Captivity, for it is Undeniably and Objectively and Needlessly gross. It has, in fact, one of the grossest scenes that I have ever seen in a movie. It's the one big "gore" showpiece in the film, and the biggest torture-porny moment; for the benefit of the less-experienced viewer, I should perhaps say that it seems to be one of the tropes of the genre that every film should have a certain baseline of torturous evil, and then one - and only one! - moment that just pushes everything into the back of beyond. Hostel, Part II had the blood-letting scene, Saw III had the brain-surgery scene, Hostel had a somewhat longish "turn the tables" scene which begins with one character strapped to a chair getting picked apart, ending with him power-tooling the fuck out of his captor.

Here is the big scene from Captivity: the evil masked torturer goes into a refrigerator, takes out several body parts (we must assume, for they are covered in blood, but the only one I would swear to recognizing was an eye, and maybe a finger), puts them in a blender, and forces the heroine-victim to drink the resultant smoothie by means of a funnel. Now, that is extraordinarily distasteful, and "ingesting horrible things" is one of my major gross-out buttons, so I will be honest: I had a bit of a time getting through that scene. But not because it was OMG TEH AWFUL IMMORAL TORTURE scene. It was because it was fucking icky. "Icky," I think, is very hard to equate with "immoral." Let us speak frankly: that is gross on the order of a pair of 9-year-old boys trying to top each other in grossing out some 9-year-old girl. And having once been a 9-year-old boy, that's not the most horrible thing I've ever imagined or heard imagined.

It is the first moment at which I had the profoundly clear thought that Captivity was being made at the mental level of a 9-year-old, but once that thought was in my head, I could not dislodge it, and it quickly spread backwards to answer all of the stupid, stupid things that had already gone on. This film, in its execution and imagination and twerpy misogyny, is precisely the film that every 9-year-old boy in history would make. That is why we do not let 9-year-old boys touch film equipment.

The film opens with a scene contrasting the really confusing death of one character, presented in all its ritualistic glory (it involves replacing blood with what appears to be diesel fuel), with the equally ritualistic cosmetic practices of Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert, one of the least engaging actresses now living), a model/actress/perfumist. While I was watching this sequence, with its comically overdone close-ups and bizarrely arrhythmic editing, here was my exact thought: "Good lord, it's a student film!" I suppose I thought this because it bore an uncanny resemblance to an actual student film that I actually worked on once upon a time. A few moments later (it's a long goddamn scene, for something that's basically just there to show the credits over it), I felt really awful for thinking that: I know many people who were film students, who are film students, and none of them regularly produced anything nearly as cheerfully inept as Captivity.

The story that follows is a massive wreck, concerning the rather abrupt and perfunctory way that Jennifer is kidnapped by a man who keeps videotaping her in a seemingly crowded club, and then the way that she is tossed in a dark concrete room and subjected to the least-violent and most annoying torture that has ever been put inside an allegedly serious horror film. It's a terribly bad film and a terribly bad torture porno, and that's before the third act, which I shan't spoil, except to say that it feels really obvious that the screenwriters didn't have it planned out before they got there. Along the way, there are all sorts of extremely thoughtful shots of video cameras and cosmetic ads and things that I suspect are probably supposed to be part of an overarching critique of the blah blah male gaze blah blah female sexuality as commodity, and as bad as it is that none of it works per se, it's doubly awful that this has been shoehorned into a bottom-tier horror picture. Again, it feels like the worst student filmmaking ever, yet director Roland JoffΓ© has, in a different life, given us The Killing Fields and the Palme d'Or winning The Mission. And a few pick-up scenes in Super Mario Bros.

So yes, I am offended, more than any torture film has ever offended me before, but it's not because this film is depraved - by the midway point I would have welcomed depravity with open arms. I'm offended because this is just plain old shitty filmmaking.

1/10