REVIEW: Face of 4
– By Antony Thomas
Imprisoned for no obvious reason in a room by an unknown sadist and thrown a befogging bone of escape through some existence-altering sacrifice. We’ve travelled this familiar torture porn road many times of late that the acquaintance breeds such a choking sense of derision; feeling you are in your own locked bullpen of why, unable to escape the banality. Sitting helpless in a frigid rictus, watching as time rips off the yellowing pages of your life calendar like a skin graft to a burnt limb filmed in reverse. I want to play a game.
Basic synopsis of this short film: the man (William Galatis) bestirs in a darkened warehouse to find himself chained to the floor and facing a small box on the table containing several dice (featuring tiles that are blank or contain the number 4), with the instructions “Avoid a 4, walk out the door. Face a 4, your son no more”. An additional ceiling light then illuminates a young boy (his son) tied to a bed frame with an ‘x’ on his throat, and above him a large serated cutlass mounted on release mechanisms. Already guessed where this is going? The man has to play a game of chance, throwing dice with an increasing odds-against jeopardy of all the blocks landing blank face up.
This allegory would be handed a decent fist if it was introduced by Rod Serling in The Night Gallery; mainly because the principal player would be someone like Roy Scheider, or even panhandled in a demoniac ham magnum opus from William Shatner. And this is where ‘Face of 4′ plummets heavily. Galatis displays more wood than an Ikea porno with scarecrows. In such terrible circumstances witnessing the imminent demise of our child at our hands we would be intersticing our bowels with fear, and being unable to grip the dice due a combination of perspiration and grief snot; Galatis medicates us to a whiny implausible blabber of nothingness. This then points us to question the lack of backstory and characterisation. Who is the man? Why is he there? Is this revenge? And do we give a fuck?
Through the ongoing wager of fear for the life of the boy; the suspense is ruined by overloud ticking as if to inform us of the gravity and fatality of it. It’s a rotten Countdown and about as subtle as being tombstoned with a sodden bag of builders’ cement. An elusive, barely audible score from Aphex Twin would at least have added some semblance of dread. And then comes the payoff. Only, it isn’t. I won’t tarnish it for anyone with 15 minutes to spare; but if I was in the director’s chair I would have discharged a climatic twist whereby the small key to release the man & his son could only be used once. That would at least have given us a character examination with its feet held over the flames of a terminal oblation.
But I don’t care. The best horror drags us into a claustrophobic hell with characters we empathise with. Good auters recognise this. Ben Wheatley’s ‘Kill List’ places us behind the eyes of those fleeing through putrid catacombs, pursued by screaming archfiends. Demme snuffs our senses us as we squint to help Clarence Starling navigate her way safely through Buffalo Bill’s unlit grotto of necrosis. The Tarantino-directed episodes of CSI, ‘Grave Danger‘ suffocated us with Nick Stokes entombed in shallow-grave plexiglas as a sadist toys with his mortality and sanity. Azzi does none of these things. Admittedly 15 minutes is a tiny window for Azzi to showcase in, but you simply come away thinking you’ve just watched a trailer for another cloying ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’ franchise. And by Christ, I think we’ve all had enough of that genre.
It’s a poor vignette that looks like a rushed slice from a bigger narrative pie. It’s a witching hour ad filler for the Horror Channel, replacing Emily Booth interviewing a latex artist at SplatterCon, while we wait -clad in the remains of our kebab- for ‘Chainsaw Vixens at the Murder Meat Bordello’. And don’t get me started on the closing theme. If I hear one more movie that ends with a psychobilly romp, I’m also likely to chain the culprits in a darkened room of no escape. This music should be outlawed; thus giving Alan Howarth the pension he deserves. I don’t want to play this game anymore. Let me out. Let me out…