Saturday, September 28, 2013

THE BUNNY GAME (2010) movie review

Bunny Game, The (2010) d. Rehmeier, Adam (USA)

A down-on-her-luck prostitute’s (Rodleen Getsic) painful existence takes a serious left turn into hell when she is abducted by a psychotic trucker (Jeff F. Renfro) who chains her in the back of his 18-wheeler to do with as he pleases. It’s an 71-minute assault on the senses and the soul, one that packs moments of such incredible intensity and honesty into its opening act that I had already cleared a spot for it on my list of “most impressive releases of the year” before it had reached the 30-minute mark.

The slow unfolding of Getsic’s character’s day-to-day trials of finding her next john in order to score her next fix (she’s sporting a serious nose candy addiction) creates a sense of identification, but after we shift to the truck’s interior, we spend more time with the cipher that is Renfro and our emotional investment begins to flag. The monotony of abuse eventually dulls our sensibilities; much like the middle act of Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs, relentlessly dwelling on the victim’s discomfort only dissipates its power, inexorably lessening the impact.

Rehmeier, who conceived the story with Getsic (inspired partially by her own real life kidnapping), captures the nightmarish scenario in beautifully shot black and white, and it is his gorgeous cinematography, ferocious sound design and fearless cast’s committed performances which elevate Bunny Game above much of the artless no-budget cinema invading the market. It’s far from a perfect film, but it’s a brave, honest and uncompromising one, which carries a lot of weight with this particular Fool.

This is not a movie for everyone, or even the majority of horror enthusiasts – it kicks off with a full contact bout of graphic oral sex and goes into darker territory from there. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive feature debut for all involved, astonishingly bleak and bold.

In a just world, Getsic would be showered with accolades and statuettes from every critics’ circle and institution; it’s the rawest, most lived-in performance I’ve seen this year in or outside of the horror genre. The actress gives over completely to the role, suffering onscreen beatings and brandings, but keeps coming back for more. Her slow devolution from soul-crushed hooker to a crazed creature in the face of unending torture is breathtaking.

Renfro is equally compelling at first, all whiskey-voiced brute charm, but his antagonism grows more tiresome and performance-like as the clock ticks by; true, he’s putting on a show to terrorize his captive, but the face-making and taunting eventually loses some of its bite.

The Bunny Game is available from Autonomy Pictures, now three for three in 2013 with Chris Alexander’s moody vampire pic Blood for Irina and Emanuele de Santi’s jaw-dropping splatterpiece Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger (also among my top picks for the year), and it’s great to see true independents being given their seat at the table. One is lucky to find one such example of visionary filmmaking – here we have a triptych, all under the same banner and within a few months of one another. I look forward to see what these champions of courageous cinema offer up next.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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