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A Horrible Way to Die

Montreal Premiere

  • /
  • USA
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  • 2010
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  • 85 min
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  • HD
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  • English
A Horrible Way to Die A Horrible Way to Die A Horrible Way to Die

Hosted by Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett

Screening Times

“A cinematic noose that just keeps on tightening... crafty and calmly mysterious... earns big points for simplicity, intensity, and plain old good acting” — Scott Weinberg, FEARNET


Director: Adam Wingard
Screenplay: Simon Barrett
Cast: A.J. Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg
Producers: Travis Stevens, Simon Barrett, Kim Sherman
Print Source: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Part of...

Medicated Monsters: A Spotlight on Filmmaker Adam Wingard   

Medicated Monsters: A Spotlight on Filmmaker Adam Wingard

Screens with...

Paradox Mary   

Paradox Mary

2008 | 12 min
English language



A.J. Bowen (THE SIGNAL, HATCHET II, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) turns in a career-making performance as guilt-stricken, strangely compassionate serial killer Garrick Turrell, who after breaking out of prison during a facility transfer sets across the southern States in pursuit of the girlfriend he betrayed. The film is full of tragic, fragile characters, but the most breakable of all is Sarah (Amy Seimetz, one of the busiest actresses on the indie scene these days). A recovering alcoholic crippled by guilt over the fact that her routine drinking blinded her to her boyfriend’s bloody nocturnal endeavours, Sarah meets awkward nice-guy Kevin (mumblecore staple Joe Swanberg) in her AA group and he seems unthreatening enough for her to test the relationship waters again. But as she and Kevin get closer, the circle of bodies left by her troubled ex’s murderous compulsions also starts to close in.

One of three Adam Wingard films playing this year’s festival (see also WHAT FUN WE WERE HAVING and a repertory screening of his psychedelic breakout film POP SKULL), the story’s elliptical reconstruction through out-of-order sequences where the present is frequently interrupted by the past has an almost ghostly effect. Where Wingard’s earlier POP SKULL employed overt ghost story elements, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE uses the concept of haunting as a memory that won’t let go; like any entity, Garrick Turrell is one that Sarah won’t be rid of easily. Garrick manages to be one of the most compelling characters in the serial killer canon. Accentuating his every move is moody sound design, with blue hues and saturated colour creating a gorgeous visual palette punctuated by ’70s flourishes like lens flares and drifting balls of light.

It’s often lamented that people in relationships tend to show their worst to those they love the most, but in A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, moral ambiguity is created by the fact that Garrick is portrayed, in many ways, as the ideal partner: empathic, considerate, equally gentle and charismatic. Does doing horrible things to strangers allow us to spare those we love? Underscored by sadness and regret, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE is not only a dazzling achievement in genre cinema, but also a meditation on the baggage that keeps each one of us ultimately alone.

—Kier-La Janisse

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