100 Feet DVD review

Trapped in a haunted house - leave it, and you'll do ten years in prison; stay there and you might not live through the night...

100 Feet

Famke Janssen is allowed to serve the last year of a commuted murder sentence in her own house; the one where she killed her violent and brutalising cop husband when he found out about her divorce proceedings and attacked her with a knife.

The bloodstains are still on the wall, the house is dark, vast and creepy…and the New York penal administration limits her to these unpromising confines with an ankle transmitter that will add ten years to her sentence and send her back to jail, should she be more than three minutes away from the ‘anchor’ unit installed on her landing.

Enemies gather quickly – the neighbourhood remembers the scandal, and has turned against the murderess; her sister, furious that their dying mother spent her life savings defending Janssen, turns up for one last brusque rebuff; and her late husband’s police partner has, for some inexplicable reason, been given charge of her custody, and is also gunning for her.

Only the laid-back and slightly oedipal delivery boy keeping the detainee’s larder stocked offers any humanity or friendship in this domestic exile.

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Within days, strange occurrences begin: a vision of an obscure man above Jannsen’s bed; stains that were washed away re-appear; crockery flies out of the kitchen cupboard; and Janssen seems unable to rid herself of her wedding ring. Turns out that ‘Till death do us part’ wasn’t quite an accurate statement of affairs…

The key to a woman-in-peril horror movie is the affability and credibility of the lead, and 100 Feet is well-served by Famke Janssen, a believable piece of casting who is likeable without being absurdly sympathetic. Once you’re on her side, you can forgive the film a lot.

There is a fair bit to forgive: the excellent set-up is essentially wasted on a ghost story or horror movie, and isn’t even exploited much. The truth is, if you own property and you have no friends left, there’s really nowhere else to go anyway. The standard bond of practical considerations that underpinned The Amityville Horror would have done as well in this case.

I’m spoiling very little by telling you that the ambiguity as to whether Janssen is besieged by a ghost or being conspired against by her various nemeses is abandoned very early in the movie; scenes of supernatural chicanery only leave open the alternative possibility that Janssen is mad and torturing herself through guilt. A good ghost story shows enough to terrify and no more, but 100 Feet leaves nothing, sadly, to the imagination. No-one ever went broke underestimating the public? This film might have had a cinema release if it had had a little more faith than that.

There are some good shocks (besides the usual ‘surprise cat’ and standard red herrings), and one scene with a waste disposal system had me biting my fist and looking away.

Gorehounds might have switched off by the time any real grue turns up, but another crucial scene near the climax of the movie is definitely worth waiting for in that respect. Nasty.

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However, things go very wrong in the last ten minutes. If you hadn’t built up a fund of sympathy for Janssen, you really might not make it to the ending before switching off in disgust. It’s as if the director (Eric Red) was ill and asked Michael Bay to step in. The denouement is overblown and absurd in every sense; this movie needed an ending as chilling and ambiguous as The Entity, but is instead logjammed with producer-friendly pyrotechnics that utterly destroy what little sense of mystery this very visible haunting had developed.

Ed Westwick is a credible Robert Pattinson-type slacker youth, but the rest of the cast run through the few tasks they are given in a routine manner. In fairness, their roles are not wildly over-written. The prosthetic and CGI nastiness varies in quality, and the fact that the haunting presence so strongly resembles the Michael Myers ‘Shatner’ look is not necessarily a help.

100 Feet is a pretty enjoyable ‘B’ horror-movie, featuring an actress capable of far better things but who, creditably,  in no way sells the film short. Which it kind of deserved. I liked it, until the ending left me open-mouthed – and not in a good way. Worth a rental, but not a keeper.

Film:

3 stars
Extras: None

100 feet is released on its own recognisance on 2nd March

Rating:

3 out of 5