David Twohy trades gore for paranoia in A Perfect Getaway.
I could probably count on one hand the number of good horror movies I’ve seen in theaters in, say, the past five years. Cheesy previews forgiven, A Perfect Getaway would be one of them.
It’s not often that strong acting, visual splendor and a believable script combine in the making of a horror film. Especially after you throw in the fear in the pit of your stomach and killer plot twists, writer/director David Twohy (The Chronicles of Riddick) really pulls it off.
Steve Zahn, who has heretofore mostly been known as a comic sidekick, steps up to play the lead, opposite a stunning, naïve-looking Milla Jovovich. The couple are Cliff and Cydney, looking for some adventure on their honeymoon in Hawaii. While trekking a secluded trail on Kuau’i, they run into another couple, Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez), who are headed the same direction. About that time, they run into some teenaged girls who just got word via cell phone that another couple were recently murdered in Waikiki and the killers are on the loose. Let the paranoia begin.
Paranoia is the real element of fear at play here, even if we do expect some sort of death toll by movie’s end.
Even after suffering through sometimes cheesy dialogue (“He’s really hard to kill.”), it’s the cast that ends up carrying the film: Cliff, a screenwriter, is a little nutty with his cell phone; Cydney seems hopelessly romantic (but Gina gets her to reveal a dark secret); Nick is an “American Jedi” with endless scary stories about Iraq; and Gina, the Southern belle, has serious skills with a knife. It’s enough to think any one of them did it. And then there’s the other mysterious couple, with tattoos and dreadlocks, who are also somewhere on the trail.
Amid all the scare tactics are brilliant flashes of island scenery, from ocean views to secluded waterfalls. Twohy does a nice job incorporating a sense of space here, especially once things get crazy toward the end and people are running from one area to the next—it’s all very fluid.
But it is still the acting that really pulls this film from B-movie status to full-fledged thriller. Jovovich feels much more real than in some of her previous roles, showing she actually can act. And Zahn’s performance proves he, too, has the chops. He’s more than just sidekick material. Olyphant is a pure joy to watch, with the crazy enthusiasm in his eyes (or is he just plain crazy?), and Sanchez brings a cool calmness to the whole bunch.
The final act, clearly, is where the real fun is, including the “twist” alluded to in the previews. Some people will claim they figured it out from the beginning, but the truth is, it’s all quite cleverly concocted, possibly even requiring a second viewing to set everything straight.