24 February 2009 | Anonymous_Maxine
Yeah, I felt a little walled in myself
Walled In is the kind of horror film that sets itself up in a bizarre location and then explains all kinds of bizarre rules to make the scariness work. The movie opens with a series of headlines that explain the terrible discovery of 16 bodies cemented into the walls of a building, including that of the architect who designed it. We learn that the person who walled them in, Joseph Malestrazza, was never caught, and then we cut to 15 years later, when the building is planned to be demolished.
Mischa Barton stars as Samantha, a young member of the demolition company family, perfectly named the Walczak's (the 'c' is silent). She recently graduated from engineering school and it becomes her first lone assignment to visit the building and supervise its demolition. It's a perfect set-up for a horror movie, I suppose, although as soon as we get to the building, the one where the 16 bodies were discovered, you remember, and learn that the wife and son of the murdered architect are still living there, the movie takes a pretty serious turn for the worse. I would think that if a man suffered the terrible fate of being murdered and cemented into the walls of a building, his wife would take it upon herself not to raise their son for his entire life in that building. But that's me.
Upon her arrival we meet the woman living there and her creepy son, who explains things to Samantha that the lights go off every six minutes to conserve energy, she shouldn't go to the 8th floor (that's Malestrazza's quarters, you see, and it's never cleaned), and whatever you do don't go on the roof! I would think that someone planning the demolition of a building would explain the logical deficiency of avoiding certain parts of it, but we understand that this is a horror movie and these goofy rules he's explaining are a set-up for freaky sequences that are to follow. There's also the issue of a few remaining people who lived in the building and who are not likely to appreciate Sam arriving to destroy it. The young boy also worries that Malestrazza will be offended by her plans.
I was reminded of the brilliant novel House of Leaves in a lot of things about the movie. Sam discovers enormous discrepancies between the blueprints and the actual measurements of the house, which in that book led to a fascinating and frightening series of events, but in the movie leads to the cheap and utterly witless third act. There is also a lot of throwbacks to Psycho in the relationship between the young boy and his mother in an isolated location. Sam even describes the building as being "like the Bates Motel, only bigger," and at one point the mother forbids her son to go near Sam, telling him that Sa could never take care of him the way she does. Creepy.
Ultimately we learn about an "ancient architectural belief" that provides the reason that Malestrazza killed people and walled them into his buildings (and also the reason why not one of the 27 buildings that Malestrazza built have ever been torn down). It gives the movie the feel of something with more thought in it that it actually has. I felt a little flicker of interest when this was revealed, but in retrospect it strikes me as little more than a screenwriters brainstorm.
I understand that Walled In is based on a novel, and I hope the novel is better than the movie. Books, especially horror books, are always better than the movie, ad if someone read the book and thought it was good enough to make into a film, it must have been better than this movie, because it has all the sign-posts of a weak horror film. It's full to the brim with cheap scares (notice the Screeching Cat Scare, which at least was made a little bit different but essentially is the same old thing, and my favorite, a scary rose scare. You have to see that one to believe it) and blatantly rips off a whole series of other horror movies. I'm curious what the movie would have looked like had director Gilles Paquet-Brenner never seen Psycho, Texas Chainsaw, and the Nightmare on Elm Street films. He even uses that "One, Two, Freddy's Coming For You" song several times. Real creative there, buddy.
I won't go into the details of the end of the film partly because I don't want to ruin it for you but mostly because it's so dumb that I don't want to bother spending my time explaining it. I will tell you one thing though. There's a particularly amusing scene where the boy accuses Samantha of thinking that he's nothing but a "crazy little boy." You gotta see this scene, man, it's hilarious. At the time that he says that to her, I won't tell you what he happens to be doing, but when you make a statement like that, it's generally not a good time to be acting like a crazy little boy.
What follows that scene is a third act that is not entirely without effect, but definitely one of the dumbest situations that I've seen in a horror movie in some years. It is so bizarre and makes so little sense that the movie almost becomes a mystery. Another mystery is why the thing got made in the first place, but sadly, after seeing the movie, I don't think I'm every going to be able to bring myself to read the book