This film was definitely not what I expected. After reading the canned description that comes with the disc, I was prepared for the usual old story of a lone psycho kidnapping girls and torturing them to death for whatever twisted reasons the writers have come up with to justify the particular shock tactics that they want to employ to sell their movie. While there are elements of that kind of film in Bane, it is actually refreshingly different.
Although in places badly acted and suffering from very stilted dialogue and direction, the main story is pretty good and well told. Unfortunately the whole is somewhat let down by the ending. I like the ending in terms of story, it is reasonably original and interesting but it is really poorly told and, to be brutally honest doesn’t actually make any sense. If feels almost as if it was cut out and then put back in at the last minute either out of some feeling of needing to provide closure to the audience or from a desire not to leave out story and scenes that people had worked hard on.
You won’t hear me say this very often but this could have done with some more ruthless editing. It isn’t always necessary to spoon feed your story to the audience and leaving some things unexplained or ambiguous can turn a mediocre movie into a classic in my opinion.
Watching the characters change and develop as a result of their experiences is quite interesting and the sense of dislocation and confusion they are experiencing comes across well in the scenes. It is kind of a shame that it moves quite quickly from exploring the psychological aspects to standard slasher clichés quite early on. However, the slasher storyline allows for lots of gore and blood effects which are quite well done and in some cases grimly amusing.
It is interesting to note that most of the main actors haven’t been in much else and the lack of film acting experience can be a bit glaring sometimes but I think overall it adds to the authentic feeling of ordinary people bemused by extraordinary circumstances. Where this feeling is let down though is in the script which is often clichéd and repetitive and the direction which doesn’t always feel like it is trying to get the best performance out of the cast.
I’m going to talk about the plot now so if you haven’t watched this movie yet I encourage you to do so now or there might not be any point
The story starts with 4 girls being drugged and placed together in a room in what appears to be an underground medical facility. They are told that they have volunteered to be part of an experiment and have had their memories erased. They are interrogated and tested in what seems to be a psychological experiment aimed at recording their brainwaves while under stress.
Soon weird things start happening that cannot be explained by a simple experiment. A sinister man, who is essentially the stereotypical lone psycho I was anticipating, starts turning up and killing the girls off one by one. While this obviously increases the stress on those left behind, I’m not sure that any ethics committee would pass an experiment of this kind. At points even the people supposedly running the experiment seem a little befuddled about the actions of this man which is odd as they coordinated the whole thing from the start.
At some point we meet an alien looking dude and his involvement in the proceedings is left refreshingly ambiguous until it is spelled out ad nauseam at the ending. At first it looks like the alien is running the show and all this unpleasantness is being done for its benefit. The alien is quite nicely done and the less-is-more technique is well employed with only very brief glimpses until the very end.
In the middle part of the film you get all the gore and unpleasantness you would expect from the standard horror film of this type as well as the associated bonding of disparate characters and the plucky but ultimately doomed defiance until only one is left who miraculously manages to escape alone when four together couldn’t manage it. The portrayal of the characters in this section is quite well done and the effects are nicely judged, not too much but just over the top enough to get your attention.
The alien turns out to be a POW and the experiments are designed to find a way to beat it. I really like this twist of the story but it is so laboriously explained and cornily done that it does spoil the film somewhat. I mean how cheesy can you get having an alien that doesn’t feel emotion and can only be defeated by being taught to experience human emotion and then broadcast it to the rest of their species. And the final voice over explaining that in the end the human emotion that defeated the alien menace was love is enough to turn your stomach in a way that all the blood and death preceding it never manages.
So we come to the ending sequence that should have turned an ordinary slasher movie into a sci-fi classic but unfortunately is quite lame.
We are subjected to long explanations to camera (superficially at least it is to the surviving girl) about a supposedly friendly alien species who travelled across the galaxy (or something) to enslave the human race. We are told that they divided the human population into 3 sections and killed a third of the population which they decided to be useless. Nothing more is made of this information except that our hero’s mother was one of the useless ones. We are told that the aliens came for our natural resources (really, why do aliens do that? have they have run out of rocks floating in space closer by? if so then why did they have to travel so far to get to us? surely there is an easier way of getting “natural resources” than travelling light years to invade a planet full of technologically advanced sentient beings who are likely to robustly resist your invasion of their planet). We are told that some humans work with the aliens and some fight them. We are given a long history of the surviving girl and her part in the resistance. There are corny flashbacks explaining the genesis of the experiment and our hero’s part in it. Much of this is completely irrelevant to the story and is delivered in a way that really doesn’t do justice to the rest of the film.
There follows an uncomfortably long sequence where our hero is connected up to the brain of the alien and relives the key points of the film in B&W flashback. We’ve just sat through all of this and really don’t need 5 minutes of re-cap so soon afterwards. To be fair, this is split into two parts and there is some new stuff in the second part but it really drags. After realising that the memories of suffering and fear aren’t having any effect she relieves the moments of love and friendship that developed between the four girls as well as some loving experiences from her past as she regains some memories. This somehow causes the alien’s head to implode (it was having a similar effect on me) but not before it somehow transmits to all the other creatures on the planet thus somehow ending the occupation.
Just before all this happens, one of the people who has been running the experiment asks the main character, who has already stabbed him and is about to finish him off, “Don’t you want to know why?”. In my opinion the film would have been a lot better (and a fair bit shorter) if she had said “Not really” and killed him.
For a proper sci-fi horror twist ending, watch La hora fria.
Interestingly, the DVD extras show that there was originally a pre-credit sequence that gives away the story about aliens right at the beginning. Aside from being very poorly made, this would have really spoiled the WTF factor when the alien is revealed at the end so I’m glad they took that out. I just wish they had done the same with large parts of the cumbersome ending.