10 September 2004 | rmwhittaker101
Colin Firth makes another bad career choice
Over the past few years, there has been a resurgence in cheap British horror movies. From the artsy approach of 28 Days Later to the low-budget, hi-gore of Cradle of Fear. Trauma is the latest of this dreary progression of spooky-ooky to inflict itself on screens, and one of the weakest.
Colin 'Mr Darcy' Firth leads as Ben, a grief-stricken artist recovering from car crash that put him in a coma and killed his wife. As he comes to terms with his grief, he is burdened down with clumsy student film imagery (ants, mirrors, creepy janitors, inexplicable bleeding, mysterious figures, living in an abandoned hospital). At the same time as he becomes convinced that his wife may be dead, he finds himself the prime suspect in the murder of a generic R'n'B singer whose connection to the main plot isn't explained for over an hour. It all starts to get too much for Ben, who starts hallucinating. Meanwhile, Mena Suvari has a few disconnected scenes as his new love interest, and then disappears for lengthy swathes of time. Not that it matters much - it's the plot, not Ben, that seems psychotic, flailing wildly from one unresolved trick on the audience to another.
Running 5 minutes longer in its UK cut than the 88 minute version that showed at Sundance, the extra time does it no favors. In fact, for such a tiny film, it lags, and obviously lacked a strong editorial hand over debut feature writer Richard Smith's red herring-laden script. As the follow-up to director Marc Evan's surprise indie hit My Little Eye, and featuring a leading role by Colin Firth, Trauma was bound to gain some press coverage. That may be fortunate for the investors, because if this had come out of the gate cold, it would have been ignored - and rightfully so.
The problems start with the pairing of Firth and Evans. Much as the director's last movie, large slabs are shot through surveillance cameras - however, whereas My Little Eye felt like it showed a degree of ingenuity in its use of non-conventional film stocks, at least the web-cam gimmick used there provided a logicale for their use. Here it feels like Evans falling back on a trick, one that wears the patience of the audience down rapidly. Firth, on the other hand, seems to have taken this role so that he can break away from his type-cast affable bumbler, the more macho Hugh Grant. It's neither the picture to do it in, or the role to do it with. He may as well just be wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm dead mad, me, since he falls back on a collection of tics and idiosyncracies to put over Ben's mental collapse.
Ultimately, and much like My Little Eye, it feels riddled with Evans' hubris. He obviously feels like he's making a terribly important and significant movie that owes no debts to anyone. However, much as his last movie was 'inspired' by The Blair Witch Project, it would be worth checking his Blockbuster rental history to see when he last took home Jacob's Ladder. The dissolution of the central character, rotting hospitals used as sets, the half-seen monsters, even the 'vibrating demon' trick all turn up.
However, that lack of originality may make it possibly the defining movie of the new wave of British horror. As a scene, it all seems to be so generic, falling back on the use of DV to give it some sense of grittiness. As a movement it lacks the vivacious ingenuity that defined the Amicus and Hammer movies of the 60s and 70s, Italian Gallo, or American grindhouse splatter.