A Horrible Way to Die: So I Dated A Serial Killer (or Am One)


A Horrible Way to Die
Directed by Adam Wingard
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Opens August 19, ReRun Gastropub Theater

Burrowing past the lurid body-count particulars, A Horrible Way to Die examines the psychological trauma wrought by a serial killer, Garrick Turrell (A.J. Bowen), on the living—namely himself and his ex-girlfriend, Sarah (Amy Seimetz). The movie fades between Garrick's murderous jailbreak and Sarah's attempts to sober up under witness protection; though she was the one who turned him in, no one appears to have apprised Sarah of Garrick's escape, so we glimpse her mostly in slow-recovery mode, tentatively entering into a romance with fellow AA member Kevin (Joe Swanberg). Also interspersed are occasional flashbacks to when Garrick and Sarah lived together, scenes consisting mostly of the former's genial excuses for why he's leaving the house in the dead of night. Taking a cue from the cast of rattled characters, the handheld camera twitches nervously around rooms—often draped with Christmas lights, which blur into abstraction in the foreground—while the droning score overwhelms the wintertime exteriors. Bowen in particular stands out, impressively describing Garrick's hairpin turns from comforting his victims to instinctively throttling them, but director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett exhibit less facility with the big picture. Garrick, it seems, is a cult figure—while behind bars he received an unprecedented amount of fan mail, and his Facebook fan page has "a membership in the hundreds of thousands," according to overheard TV news reports. By making these absurd connections between Garrick and the sick-fuck society-at-large, A Horrible Way to Die gradually undermines the creepy intimacy that had distinguished it.

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Jonathan Puppy-Kearns
Jonathan Puppy-Kearns

I saw A Horrible Way to Die at the Little Roxy here in San Francisco a handful of months back. I was lucky enough to be at a viewing attended by AJ Bowen. The movie was a refreshing take on one of our favorite genres that I felt played well to the struggles of the addict being boozer or butcher and AJ Bowen in his portrayal of Garrick is this films heart and soul.

In a time fueled with cinematic remake crapfests costing more than enough millions to feed 200 families for 3 years ( not actually numbers just what it feels like ) a film that brings something more to the table is a huge treasure and AJ Bowen is this one’s crowning jewel.

This man is brilliant ya’ll! From his easy and blood covered pace in The Signal to the chilling “are you the baby sitter” in the masterpiece House of the Devil he brings something under the surface to these roles where it stays shimmering just under the surface yet you sense its presence and know exactly what it feels like.

Then there was Hatchet 2 and we find that OH MY GOD!! The man can do comedy too!! I laughed so hard with him in H2. Heck even his tale in Creepshow 3 was the only watchable episode.

When I saw A Horrible Way to Die I took a super critical friend and my dog. My dog slept in my lap and my super critical friend loved the film (thankfully since AJ and his super awesome wife Amanda were sitting right behind us).

AHWTD comes out in a week on DVD go ahead and order it make some pop corn and a enjoy a brand new thoughtful and provoking movie instead of a remake. Sure it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but at least it has brains.

And the rest of you who make films you need to use AJ Bowen way more than you do. It is a shame that such thoughtful talent isn’t in more.


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