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What do you suppose would happen if... if we just decided not to fight each other?
I don't know. Probably come down here and shoot us both?
[Contemplates Cody's answer]
How's your mother?
See more »
The subject matter of this prison/cage fighting movie is pure exploitation, and it is marketed as such rather adroitly. However, by the time the first fight scene has concluded, there is little in the way of cheap thrills to be had from this sort of thing, and instead, we're presented with the kind of gritty brutality that only comes along in indy, low-budget concept pieces like this, from Josh Waller, directing his feature film debut with a lot of grass-roots style and a panache that is all the more skillful in its' lack of show-off techniques. Instead, we're given a very raw, lean piece of work which focuses on violence, rather on well-crafted fight scenes, despite the presence of a well-choreographed team of stunt performers, fronted by one of the most physically talented stuntwomen in the business, Zoe Bell.
There is little time devoted to navel-gazing, and yet the characterisation does sometimes feel a little on the clunky side, although it is doubtful that its' absence would provide us with anything better. Without it, there would be fight after fight, followed by scenes of painful silence, and the full horror of the situation. Whilst the teary eyed drama makes a precarious balance with the blood and guts of the fight scenes, perhaps the most impressive feature here is the sense of hopelessness which is created. Hopeful, this movie isn't, and in many ways, it's an adult, and female, version of "Lord of the Flies", only with a more artificially constructed set up. The idea here, is that by fighting, killing and surviving, the survivor of this ordeal will become somehow awakened, enlightened, and open themselves up to a wider world of awareness. That this idea is set up by a bunch of mad-eyed religious fanatics strains credibility, although the contrast between opulent upper class, and filthy stone-walled dungeons is nothing new, yet remains valid. The ending tells us, quite simply, that this is a load of rubbish, and, rather than being designed for this purpose, the idea of nobility through killing, of a "Napoleon" complex, is a myth, and that killing actually provides nothing but thrills for the rich, and that, for the survivor, no matter how tough she is, they will always be stronger. Contrived? Perhaps. But the drama is played out convincingly, and the power of the hellish fight scenes is arguably as anti-stereotypical as anything seen in films. There are not a series of carefully contrived, well-scripted and erotically filmed scenes of rolling around and grunting. This is brutal, survival of the fittest stuff, and the edginess of the movie's central dilemma – kill to save your loved ones, or do nothing and let them die – is well utilised. The tagline; "No man could handle this" is well put; This scenario with a male cast would scarcely feature the same level of horror, and uneasiness, and the reversion to savagery would be far less of a shock.
Acting is generally nothing special, but then, the real drama of this situation comes not from the script, or the over-embellishment of certain of the actresses, but in the heat of the fight sequences, in the minute reactions, in the bursting of the welled up emotions and fears, and in sharing that feeling. It's a film not so much about the journey of its characters, or their own personal features, but rather, about seeing how you would react in this situation yourself; in short, it is a film which speaks directly to the audience, with a well-shaped hell of anti-humanity. Throughout the entire ninety minutes, the feeling of impending doom, of inner pain, and futile hopelessness, as relationships build feebly, only to be broken down again minutes later, or as they realise just how little they can actually do.
Which is why, in the truest sense of the word, this is a horror film, about the horrors of being faced with that most primal of dramas. And be sure that this isn't just a bad excuse for trotting out some more niche genre fare; You will feel every punch, and every angry exhalation, and realise that fights are basically just someone pummelling bits of their body against bits of someone else's, in the hope that they'll break before you do, and that death isn't administered with a quick twist, or a carefully placed blow. It takes time, and it isn't exciting, or cool. It's actually the worst thing that you can imagine. Even the climactic fight scene, when Sabrina takes on the films supposed "villain" – i.e, the one who's enjoying it all – is deliberately restrained, rather than being played out for drama. Every kind of painful situation is played, and it is when the film is at its' most explicitly brutal, that it becomes the most emotionally painful. Hey, look. Someone has made violence in horror movies scary again. And all it took was a small, dedicated cast of women, and a director with a strong vision, and sense of purpose.
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