In this gore-heavy, logic-free thriller, the talented Josh Stewart stars as Arkin, an ex-con turned handyman who breaks into the remote Victorian home of his latest clients, only to discover that the family isn’t on vacation, as planned, but are instead locked in the basement, where a masked serial killer (Juan Fernández) is slowly torturing them to death. Having written the last three Saw films, screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan are now certified experts in traps and torture, and so it is that the killer, for reasons that don’t make much sense, has rigged the house with sharp-edged booby traps, with a heavy emphasis on knives, nails, and fishhooks, all of which Arkin must sidestep while trying to locate the family’s 8-year-old daughter. Making his directorial debut, Dunstan displays a knack for building suspense. And yet, weirdly, one senses, amidst all the requisite blood spray, a reluctance on the filmmaker’s part to linger lovingly over the pierced skins and protruding entrails of the killer’s various victims, a reticence that may prevent Dunstan from helming a Saw flick of his own someday but which earns him here an infinitesimal bit of respect.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 28, 2009