Here’s what happened: Roland Joffe made a movie a couple years ago that would best be described as a suspense thriller, albeit not a very suspenseful or thrilling one. It sat around unreleased until Courtney Solomon, kingpin at After Dark Films and the director of “Dungeons & Dragons” and “An American Haunting,” got a hold of it and turned it into one of those torture-horror movies that the kids are so fond of nowadays. It is now being released as “Captivity.”
If you know where to look on the Internet, you can find a cut of the film that’s probably pretty close to what Joffe shot, before Solomon latched onto it and made it even worse. Perhaps someday a film class will analyze both versions, discuss what’s wrong with each of them, and then put their heads down on their desks and weep softly for the remainder of the period.
Elisha Cuthbert, best known as Jack Bauer’s idiot daughter on “24,” plays a New York model named Jennifer who wakes up one day in cement room in a basement somewhere. She has been drugged, and in the room are a number of personal belongings from her own bedroom. In the adjoining room is another captive, Gary (Daniel Gillies) — a guy, you’ll notice, which seems odd, considering these psychos usually prefer female victims. Of course, there was that poor fellow with the plaster cast over his face in the film’s opening scene … but then, we never do learn who he was or what he has to do with anything.
Jennifer and Gary make a few feeble escape attempts, somehow managing to fall in love in the process. Yes, you read that right: They fall in love. In one scene, Jennifer’s mood shifts from hopeless and terrified to erotic and horny in a matter of seconds. I’ve known a lot of hopeless and terrified women in my day, and believe me, none of them ever switched that fast.
Jennifer keeps being given particular outfits and articles of clothing to wear, none of them very provocative or revealing. Once she puts them on, there are no further instructions. Apparently she was just supposed to wear them for a few minutes. It is one of the film’s many, many details that seem ominous by themselves but that, when you put them together, don’t actually mean anything.
In the midst of all this, Jennifer is frequently drugged, only to wake up in some dimly lit “Saw”-like dungeon where the Bad Guy (Pruitt Taylor Vince) inflicts cruel mind games on her. There isn’t much in the way of physical torture — with only one victim/protagonist here, it’s not like the movie can kill or immobilize her right away — but there’s plenty of psychological mayhem. It ranges from the distasteful to the genuinely laughable, always flatly acted by the perpetually flat-acting Cuthbert.
Out in the real world, a pair of bantering police detectives are searching for the missing model. They surmise that this is the work of a serial killer they’ve been pursuing for quite some time. They have no good reason to surmise this, but nonetheless, surmise it they do.
As I mentioned, most of the film was directed by Roland Joffe, who was nominated for two Oscars (for “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission”) before ghost-directing “Super Mario Bros.” “Captivity,” despite a few artfully shot sequences and the occasional glimpse of creativity, represents a backward slide even from that ignominy — and how amusing that after serving as uncredited director of “Super Mario Bros.,” he’s now had one of his own projects taken over by someone else. Hollywood is indeed a cruel place.
Does it go without saying that none of this is scary, suspenseful, alarming, or eyebrow-raising? It does? Then I won’t say it. Let me add, though, that it’s not interesting, entertaining, believable, or original, either. Solomon tried to polish the turd by adding some torture scenes, but all he did was make the turd turdier.
D- (1 hr., 25 min.; )