This may be the darkest movie I've ever seen. I'm aware that the
word "dark" is ambiguous in that context, but it doesn't matter which
definition you assume. In terms of visibility, this film is so dark
David Fincher would have been advising them to add some lightbulbs. In
thematic terms, this film is so dark it makes Fincher's SE7EN look
like a remake of The Sound of Music. I've seen other films referred to
as Fincher Light. This one is Fincher Dark. It combines torture porn,
a serial murderer, brutal rape, and scientific theories about human
behavior and evolutionary biology.
That's right. Because she is tortured by memories of her own past experience, the
killer is really into the hypothesis that species perpetuate
themselves because selflessness is non-existent in nature. This helps
her justify something she did in her past. She is
interested in studying further whether humans can rise above the
animal level to sacrifice their own lives to save the one they love
most. The killer manages to combine her love of science with revenge
against the people who gang-raped her some years ago. Here's how she
goes about it: with each of her victims, she tranquilizes and captures
both the criminals and the people they love most: one guy and his
pregnant girlfriend, one guy and his beloved granny, one woman and her
five-year-old boy. She attaches the loved one to an electric chair and
gives the criminal the switch. Then she tortures the criminal to death
slowly - unless they flip the switch, in which case they are free to
go. The final pair consists of the cop who deliberately bungled the
earlier rape investigation and his male lover, who happens to be one of the
rapists. The same cop is also the lead detective in the investigation of
the serial killings.
The dramatic tension, if you want to call it that, comes in the
last ten minutes of the film as the serial killer tortures the
daylights out of the cop, while the cop's lover sits in the electric
chair, wondering how long it will be before he gets the buzzer. Will
the cop prove to be any more selfless than the lowlifes who all killed
their loved ones? You'll just have to watch the film to find out.
It is a totally unpleasant and brutal film but, or maybe I should
say "because of that" instead of "but," is a highly effective film in
its way. The editing is taut, and it is supported by an evocative and
appropriately unpleasant score. Even the dim lighting is apropos in
the context. Stellan Skarsgard really committed to the part of the
cop, offering ten minutes of nudity (including his penis), and
developing a complex noir character with all kinds of dark issues.
The IMDb score is misleading. Many people gave the film a low score
not because it is incompetent, but because it is just so utterly
unpleasant. The odds are pretty good that most of you will feel the
same way, but the film accomplishes everything it sets out to do, and
does so very well.
I just can't imagine why anyone would want to do it.