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Movie Review: Bane

Bloody man being thrown against a fence wrapped in plastic

It might be an unfair description to hurl at Bane, but the film can be classified as torture porn. The plot revolves four women locked in a cell where they’re psychologically abused and physically carved up by a psycho killer. Stripped down to its barest bones description like that, sure one can toss it into the Saw, Hostel, Captivity, et. al. bin.

But take out the blood and gore, Bane is really more like a modern Twilight Zone story, specifically that one where a group of people are trapped in a tall cylinder that they can’t escape. Then at the end we find out they’re really just toys tossed into the bottom of a bin.

No, that’s not my way of lobbing an oblique spoiler. It’s readily apparent from the beginning of Bane that the women’s only hope of escaping their predicament is to figure out “the secret.” And that secret comes from so far out of left field, it comes sailing in from another stadium entirely. Though, to the film’s credit, the ending totally works and is a satisfying one.

Writer/director James Eaves smartly focuses the script more on the mental challenges faced by his four leads rather than their physical ones. The women, however, are a tad on the cliché side. There’s the serious, “let’s think this through” one; the tough, “act first, ask questions later” one; the sensitive, “I’m worried about everyone else” one; and the cry-baby one. Now, on the one hand Eaves didn’t cast bimbos in these roles, so unfortunately there’s no nudity. (Does that hurl it out of the torture porn genre altogether then?) But since they’re solid actresses (Sophia Dawnay, Lisa Devlin, Tina Barnes and Sylvia Robson), they’re able to grind out enough human dimension beyond the archetype they’ve been fitted for.

Plus, the basic mystery that the entire film is wrapped around is a nicely intriguing one. For some reason, these four women have had their memories wiped clear while a deranged doctor (Daniel Jordan) is intent on driving them insane during Clockwork Orange-ish interrogation sessions. But this doctor is the least of their worries. In the middle of the night, a masked maniac wielding a giant knife breaks into their cell and carves into their flesh the time he’s going to return to kill them.

Suffice it to say, the little prison cell turns into a slaughterhouse. Aside from the original “time stamp” method of murder, Eaves doesn’t get creative in the techniques of killing and just goes for straight-up slicing and dicing, which is refreshing in this day and age of “Can you top this?” gross-outs.

And special mention has to go to the creepy yet sparse set design. Instead of the dingy dungeon look of the typical torture film, the women in Bane are trapped in a stripped-down laboratory testing facility. Their only prison “walls” is a thin metal fence — electrified of course — covered by flowing translucent plastic sheets, which actually turns out to be more frightening than dark, mold-covered dripping walls. And If one still wants to throw Bane into the torture porn vault, it’s one that gives a welcome new eerie, medical/military/scientific sheen to the genre.

(This film was sent to the Underground Film Journal as a screener from the 2008 Spooky Movie Film Festival, Washington, D.C.’s horror film festival, which runs this year Oct. 16-20.)

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