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In response to our own Bekah McKendry’s positive review of
the already controversial THE DIVIDE,
this writer has opted to offer a different, less enthusiastic perspective.
Cruelty is a powerful tool in horror, used to exemplify how
base we damn dirty humans can be when we shed the veneer of social mores that
keep us in check. It should be painful and frightening to watch man’s inhumane
treatment to smaller creatures and each other , or in the case of something
like, say the HUMAN CENTIPEDE films, it should be a device to go over the top
into histrionic heights of absurdist hardcore fantasy. Credit Tom Six for being
ludicrous and disgusting with his colorful villains but always keeping his
victims and their plights the source of real trauma and shock.
But Xavier Gens’ THE DIVIDE is an example of what’s killing
cruelty in horror; it’s a pretentious, posturing and pointless wallow in tepid
bad behavior done with no joy of the medium, yet littered with self-import and
silliness. Not one second of it is believable, not one character feels like
they belong in the same world together— let alone trapped in the dire
predicament Gens forces them into in his epic in length slog through grime.
Ostensibly a post-apocalypse drama, the film begins
promisingly, as nuclear missiles decimate Manhattan and traps that ragtag band
of “types” in a filthy apartment basement, the lair of half mad building handyman
Mickey (Michael Biehn, whose scenery chewing is the best thing about the
picture). As soon as the wildly screaming Biehn seals the iron door behind
them, Gens begins to pit his characters and their clichéd traits against each
other. Never mind that nuclear fallout and atomic death vibrates above their
heads, these poorly etched idiots start to spout wince inducing dialogue, make
moronic decisions (like trying to leave the basement only hours after the
bombs hit) and relate to each other in heavy handed ways that serve no other
purpose than to foreshadow later behaviors.
Every second the audience is left shaking their head asking
“why?” Why do a gang of bio-suited soldiers invade the basement and steal
Rosanna Arquette’s daughter? Why do they hang out outside of the basement and
set up a lab? What would the ethereal Lauren German see in that whiny French
boyfriend? Why, when wannabe hero Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) dons one of their
suits to spy on them, does he come back and report to Arquette that her
daughter is dead, when she is not? Why does Arquette go— in minutes— from
despair to cross eyed sexual madness? Why do characters look fine one second
then froth at the mouth, get red eyes and lose their hair the next? Why, why,
Eventually, you stop asking why and just throw your hands up
and settle in to watch these goons do bad things to each other, which they of course
do, despite none of it being particularly shocking. Rather, it’s just ugly and
stupid stuff: forced sex, bathroom antics, off camera dismemberment. A scene
where Arquette—who is one of the great actresses of her generation and gives
this her all—begins to menstruate post-coitus while a few of the men bray at
her and humiliate her is revolting and ridiculous. But you watch. You keep
watching, hoping that eventually something resembling a plot or twist or reveal
might rear its head. It sort of does, I guess, but it ain’t no Rod Serling
morality bender that’s for damn sure.
There’s no pacing, no sense of place, no feel of the passage
of time, and hilariously phony existential shots of men putting on make-up
while staring in mirrors rule the day while the relentless, tinkly score—a
shameless rip-off of Clint Mansell’s music from Darren Aronofsky’s THE
FOUNTAIN, in fact—swells away on the soundtrack trying to make us emote to people that probably should all have just been vaporized. Gens is a talented
filmmaker (FRONTIER(S) is still one of my fave of that year), but this one is
just dull designer misery.
Ultimately, THE DIVIDE feels like a glossier, less
exploitive Bruno Mattei schlock fest from the early 80’s. Hell, even the actors
are oddly dubbed! But at least RATS moved, and had Geretta Geretta in it.
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