Stuck is note-worthy for two reasons. For one thing it’s the first Amicus Productions film since the company was recently revived (if you’re not familiar with the Hammer Films rival and production company of such films as Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Scream and Scream Again, it’s time to get acquainted) and secondly, it’s Stuart Gordon’s real return to his horror roots. It mixes horror and black humor in a way that few directors can, and proves that the man’s still got it. This film’s fantastic.
As you may know, the story is based on the horrifying true story of Chante Jawan Mallard, a former nurse’s aide who struck and hit a homeless man on the way home after a night out partying, and instead of giving him aid drove him home to her garage. He was still alive. Later on after he had died she enlisted the help of a couple of friends to dump the body in a park and burn her car… only getting caught when bragging about the incident months later. She’s currently in jail serving a long, long sentence.
Gordon’s tale is just loosely based on this, but there’s enough similarities to the real story to make you squirm when you think that this has actually happened.
At the beginning of the film we’re introduced to Brandi (Mena Suvari) at her job at a nursing home, in a hysterical slow motion scene set to hardcore gangster rap. It’s shot almost like a rap video, as you watch elderly white folks take their pills and play cards, and is such a brilliant way to throw you into everything. Brandi’s got a pretty rough time of things, as she literally takes care of all kinds of crap there, but she’s happy and has her eyes (and huge forehead) set on a possible promotion. She’s all excited about it and is going out to party, despite having to come into work tomorrow on Saturday.
Across town, Tom (Stephen Rea) is having one shitty day. He’s been evicted from his apartment with only the clothes he could carry in his hands, and is looking in vain for a job. Tom has no one in his life, is out on the streets by himself, and is starting to realize that this might be the start of the rest of his life as a homeless man. His day gets worse and worses and unfortunately for him, is going to get a helluva lot worse.
Their paths meet late that night. Tom’s been kicked off a park bench by some cops, and Brandi’s driving home from the club a little tipsy and high on ecstasy. She’s fiddling with her phone and doesn’t notice till way too late that Tom was walking across the street against the light. Boom goes Tom right into her windshield.
She panics, and almost goes to drop him off at a hospital before freaking out and heading to her house. She parks her car in her garage and then realizes… holy shit, he’s still alive, and pleading for help. She runs out with a brief promise to get some help.
Her boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby, in a very funny role) comes over right then, and though she tells him she’s been in an accident and hit someone, she doesn’t tell him the exact details. Like, that the guy’s still alive and currently bleeding all over her passenger seat. Rashid calms her down and tells her that no one will find out, and they end up having loud sex while Tom bleeds and squirms in agony in the garage alongside the house.
And the film gets worse from there!
As you might expect it is a intense, brutal ride. It doesn’t shy away from showing you just how badly hurt Tom is, in all its gory, bone-jutting violence. In fact, it’s so nauseating and explicit that a man walked out of the theater during one particularly gruesome part.
But at the same time, the film is also very funny. Just like with his most famous work, Gordon’s managed to take something sick and twisted and disturbing and find a humorous side to it, and leave you with some genuine laughs. They’re the kind that’ll make you feel a little disgusted with yourself, but as any horror fan knows, that’s the best kind of humor. Very, very dark. The strange pick for a poster (see above) makes it seem like a little bit more of a comedy than it is, though. I much preferred the original poster, because the image and tagline gives you a much better idea about what kind of film you were about to see, but you can understand why they probably wouldn’t allow it in theaters.
Mena Suvari’s pretty great in this role, and portrays a completely believable character.
She’s not a terrible person, she’s just used to looking out for herself, and when things go bad she
doesn’t know how to cope. I met people
exactly like her when I used to volunteer at a nursing home in high
school- you could tell a lot of them were doing it just because it was
a job that paid, and not because they genuinely wanted to care for
people. Much like in her most famous American Beauty role,
however, she’s very easy to hate. Very much a surprise how strong she
is in this.
Stephen Rea deserves praise as well, for without him the film would have no heart. He gives his
character humanity and a background with the slightest of looks and
gestures, and you really will be rooting for him to make it out of
The use of music in the film is remarkable as well, as there’s a ton of underground rap. One song in particular, Jedi Mind Tricks and Ill Bill’s fantastic track ‘Heavy Metal Kings‘ is used beautifully in the film, providing the perfect soundtrack for a scene that shows both intense misery and lovemaking, and switches and confuses the two. It’s amazingly effective, and with both this and Frank Hennenlotter’s Bad Biology, could this be a new era for horror soundtracks?
The real strength of the film though is how believable it is. It’s scary to think that we live in a world where people care more about themselves than anyone or anything else, but that’s the way it works. There’s nothing supernatural or Lovecraftian about this film but it’s still one of the most horrific of Stuart Gordon’s works so far.
Stuck is currently in a very limited release, but if it’s playing near you I suggest going to see it immediately. The big summer blockbusters can wait.
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