Victim (2010)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 12/12/11 16:19:55

"Sadly, the title can be said to refer to the audience."
1 stars (Total Crap)

If I was going to see and review "Victim" (and let us assume for the purposes of this paragraph that such a thing was unavoidable), it probably would have been better to have seen it when it first appeared last year and not after seeing a certain movie that came out a month ago. It wouldn't have ranked higher without a similar movie showing how to do every wrong thing this one does right, but I also wouldn't have been tempted to make the entire review a compare and contrast.

The film opens with a young girl (Jennifer Howie) being attacked by an unseen assailant; some time later, we see a man (Stephen Weigand) annoying a waitress in a bar. On leaving, though, he is also attacked, and wakes up in a bare cell in a basement. An old record on female deportment is being piped in, there's a young girl's diary there for him to read, and every once in a while his captors - eccentric surgeon Dr. Volk (Bob Bancroft) and hulking mute Mr. George (Brendan Kelly) - will take him away for a procedure to break his body and mind. At one point, he manages to make a 911 call, and the detective who picks up the case (Stacy Haiduk) is far more curious than seems reasonable, but...

Victim doesn't run on a completely straight track, but near enough so. For a horror chamber piece like this, with only four characters really in play, there's not a lot of room to build tension by killing characters off. So, tension has got to come from somewhere else, and while Volk certainly has a cruel fate planned for his victim, the getting there is mechanical. After the first time Weigand's character tries to escape, Volks' plan mostly proceeds without a hitch. There's never the sense that escape is possible, that Volk is feeling conflicted, that there might be a wedge to drive between Volk and George. All writers Michael Hultquist & Robert Martinez and directors Matt Eskandari & Michael A. Pierce have to give the audience is dread at what is going to happen, and even when even the big steps along the way are played as banal and emotionless. There's never a jolt or a revelation to get the audience more invested until the end, and even then it's either expected or nonsensical

That sort of story could work, I suppose, if the cast weren't so restrained. Go ahead, try and find some sort of personality to Stacy Haiduk's Janet; all we know about her is that she's going on vacation to Florida soon. Similarly, Brendan Kelly is large and menacing, but there's no hint of motivation beyond "because the script says so" in either of their actions. Bob Bancroft has an odd look and gives off an off-kilter vibe as Volk, but aside from a few moments of anger, he seldom gets to let loose. It's especially disappointing in his scenes with Weigand; for all we know in those scenes, he could just be a hired hand, not someone obsessed with revenge. He's got a mad scientist to play and he doesn't run with it, which is shameful.

And then there's Stephen Weigand, who to be fair does a pretty good "douchebag getting his comeuppance" through the first half of the movie, but when he's got to do something else at the end, it's... not good. It may be bad acting, the character pretending to be something else and not a natural actor, or even what he'd be like in the situation, but it feels wrong, but not in a way that's more entertaining than the nondescript performances that lead up to it.

"Victim" really should be kind of loopy, or at the very least melodramatic. But the filmmakers fail to make an outré premise into something strange and thrilling, which is really unforgivable.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.