Monday, August 9, 2021

Tooth, Nail, & Torture

 Remember that post-Saw era of straight-to-what-we-used-to-call-DVDs horror, where titles were one homophone and cover art usually included teeth? 

Found another one!

Quick Plot: After a pre-credit sequence involving a man being skinned alive on a doctor's table, we move on to the tried and true "attractive college students wearing unreasonable clothing while camping" sequence to establish our hot young leads: Nice guy Nick and his secretly pregnant girlfriend Tayler, and slightly wilder Kai and her straight-laced boyfriend Tony. 

While stopping for gas, they meet Diane (Passions' Sheridan Crane/Face/Off host McKenzie Westmore), a lady on the town who needs a lift to her own car parked in the middle of nowhere because obviously, that's the ideal spot to gas a truckload of young people and lock them in a Saw 2-style grunge-filled home.

The group awakens alongside a few other confused souls, all with devices installed in the back of their heads and a large monitor and 22 hour countdown clock in full view. A video tape of a mysterious scientist plays informing them of their new purpose: raise their hormone levels sufficiently for their captors to collect their juices (just go with it) and they'll all be released. The best way of hitting those levels? TORTURE.

(Well, actually, as the Jeff Spicoli-ish lone wolf points out, they could all just have sex, but that would put this in a different genre, so forget we even brought it up.)

After a few false starts, the group agrees to rotate torture duty, trusting that when they hit their marks, the doors will open and they'll limp back home, a few fingers short but fully intact to live the rest of their lives.

These people are idiots.

Vile is credited as being directed by Taylor Sheridan, the now-successful writer behind Sicario and Hell or High Water, though his Wikipedia page tries to downplay any involvement. As first films go, Vile isn't terrible, though keep in mind, I'm saying this as someone who's seen just about every Saw-inspired gross-out flick to come out of the early aughts. Next to, say, Nine Dead, how can ANYTHING be bad?

But also, Vile is not very good. Part of it is the sheer datedness and stupidity of its concept: torture porn was a term that was often misused by mainstream critics, but Vile is LITERALLY about torture, and in a supremely dumb way at that. When a character is madly scrambling through kitchen drawers so that she can plug in a wafflemaker and burn her own back, there's really no other description that fits. 

All the soulful indie rock tunes used to montage sequences of a bound hot person screaming while his or her friends look on in tears can't cover the fact that, you know, this isn't cool or's just pretty stupid. 

High Points
As much as the young and pretty cast leaves little impression, I did appreciate the earnest effort to make it clear that the moral compasses of each person varied wildly, and that Nick was pleasantly consistent in his sense of right and wrong

Low Points
I don't always mind not getting answers in a genre film, but the half-story of Vile's watchers is so muddled that it's just genuinely unsatisfying to learn some, not all the answers we might have wanted. 

Lessons Learned
Even amongst college women, there is a fair amount of confusion over the definition of feminist

When your clock to a violent death is audibly clicking, you should definitely take all the time in the world to artistically determine the order of who gets tortured first

It ain't real torture until the fingernails come off

No, Vile is not particularly good, but it's better assembled than many a similar film of its era and subgenre. Those of you weirdo completists who feel the need to see every somewhat professionally made horror film of the last 20 years can find it on Amazon Prime. 

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