Model Jennifer Tree (Cuthbert) is drugged in a New York nightclub, and wakes up in an underground prison where she is tormented by a sadistic stalker who plays evil games with her. She discovers that Gary (Gillies) is being held in an adjoining cell, and the pair team up against their unknown enemy.
The thing about director Roland Joffé is that even his officially ‘good’ films (The Killing Fields, The Mission) aren’t actually that good – and they have a streak of pompous self-importance which carries over into this horribly derivative horror film. It’s worth remembering Joffé also signed off on the version of The Scarlet Letter that was laughed offscreen in 1995, and produced the singularly cheerless Super Mario Bros. Here Joffé tries to get down with the kids by working from a script by the usually ingenious Larry Cohen, following Joel Schumacher (Phone Booth) and David R. Ellis (Cellular). Joffé used to direct wonderful schlock about killer babies (It’s Alive) and Aztec dinosaur gods (Q), but now just turns out ‘high concept’ thriller pitches which get hammered into thoroughly conventional pictures.
The great-grandaddy in the ‘captivity’ genre is The Collector, which was also about a gorgeous but shallow girl chained up in the basement of an avid fan. However, it’s plain this has been made with several spare eyes (the ones that didn’t go in the blender) on the Saw franchise, which inspires the metal shop gothic look of the heroine’s cell and the string of nasty tricks played on her (you can see the one with her pet poodle coming a mile off – though that pays off with a contemptible cop-out), plus a few strategic borrowings (including the exact shot in which one twist is revealed) from My Little Eye.
Elisha Cuthbert, having suffered through three seasons of 24 and lost a finger in the House of Wax remake, goes through the motions as a hard-to-like victim who keeps falling for the villain’s obvious stratagems and always makes the wrong decision as to when to kick and when to plead. She’s not even convincing in the few scenes where she’s supposed to be playing a superficial model. Of the rest of the tiny cast, only blandly handsome Gillies gets much to do – with an especial waste of talented heavyweight Pruitt Taylor Vince (Identity took place inside his head – remember?) in a misleading mid-film cameo. Somebody please ask Larry Cohen to direct again – even his most makeshift horrors had a snap and unpredictability that the likes of Roland Joffé can’t hope to match.
Torture junkies should remember its only four months to Saw IV -- so you can afford to avoid Captivity.