– By Dave Dubrow
The horror film 3 clearly has a small budget, but writer-director Lou Simon (a Cuban woman) squeezes every last dime out of it with decent special effects and a technical skill that makes you forget you’re watching a low-budget horror movie…until the actors speak their lines.
It begins with an interesting premise: a rapist is lured to a remote cabin in the woods, knocked unconscious, and tortured until he confesses to the crime. The brief, numerical title appears to refer to the three main characters, known only as He (the torturer), She (the rape victim), and It (the rapist). However, as the film unfolds, the meaning of the title and the significance of each character alter in ways that I can’t describe for fear of spoiling it.
Screenwriters always say that the last thing you want is for your dialogue to be “on the nose.” (I am not a screenwriter.) If your dialogue’s on the nose, it means each character says exactly what he or she is thinking and feeling, which is both expository and unrealistic. Too much of 3’s dialogue was on the nose, dragging the viewer into clumsy conversations and ruining that sense of escape. Real people, even in extremis, don’t speak like the characters in 3.
While Todd Bruno as He and Aniela McGuinness as She did decent work in their roles, the problem with Mike Stanley’s portrayal of It was that he was more angry than scared. If he’s not scared, we’re not scared watching him, so that vital element of tension wasn’t present. Even as things got more horrific, it became impossible to either sympathize with his agony or revel in his pain, because he seemed to be either mad or indifferent.
There’s a lengthy cat-and-mouse stalking scene that didn’t go anywhere, and later in the film everyone just comes off as tired. Issues like psychoactive drugs, psychotherapy, and PTSD (suffered by a war veteran, not “triggered” by having heard an objectionable opinion) are lightly brushed upon, though none of them are treated with much depth.
Nevertheless, I encourage you to watch 3 and stick with it. Once the lines start to get blurred, the last third of the movie gets a great deal more exciting, and strange actions certain characters take slowly begin to make sense. It’s just getting there that’s difficult.