A young couple hit a major bump on their way to a new life, when they are waylaid at the home of crazed California wine merchants in this grisly thriller.
The film opens with an intense sequence wherein we learn that Chad and Scarlet are a young couple grappling with a terrible situation. We watch them say an awkward goodbye to their neighbors (who are happy to get all of the couple’s furniture, but troubled over the events that led to such fortune). It soon becomes clear that they have been staggered by the loss of lost baby, but the pain and suffering has barely begun.
The next sequence finds the pair embarking on a 20-hour road trip to the state of Washington. This excursion gets sidelined when Chad falls asleep at the wheel and drives their SUV into a ditch. They emerge from the vehicle and find out that a “movie thing” has happened. They have managed to have their wreck in front of the only home for miles.
The owners of the home turn out to be another married couple. The gorgeous Lil and her husband Sam. They are happy to extend their hospitality, or that may be because it is obvious the area is so desolate that strangers make for primetime entertainment. Either way, they seem to be eager for company, though Sam comes off as a controlling jerk, especially when he berates their hearing-impaired assistant, Alal. Their property includes a creepy barn where they stomp grapes and … well … read on.
The big announcement at bedtime is that they will have to sleep in separate beds. That turns out to be nothing compared to the rest of the night’s activities, which include water boarding the guests and then finding improper uses for kitchen utensils on their skin. That’s right, folks — Sam and Lil turn out to be awful hosts. Actually, they have a bigger secret, but it would be criminal to give it away. Let’s just say that some accidents are actually fated to befall the people who deserve them the most.
Fans of flicks like “Hostel” will enjoy the heck out of this, but the film is actually aimed at old Scholl horror fans who want to see the bad guys get what is coming to them. This flick does a fine job of fully painting its villains before giving them their just desserts. The best thing about the whole enterprise is that you are kept guessing as to who the villains really are, but it is worth the wait to find out.
The movie benefits from a superb cast. Steve Weber (“Wings”) proves that he’s an ideal leading man who is capable of playing roles that would normally go to Jack Lemmon or even Jack Nicholson. He can swing from merry to menacing in one fluid move and makes a huge impression as Sam.
Kelly Hu is also good as Lil. She comes off as a sex kitten, but the claws that come out belong on a tiger. She has a fabulous scene where she is called upon to torture another character with kitchen tools. She plays it like she is performing in an infomercial gone horribly wrong. It’s a laugh or shudder moment that totally works.
The young couple is played by newcomers, and that works to the film’s advantage. They start out as characters in peril, but that perspective changes as you learn more about them.
It all comes courtesy of director George Bessudo. He does a fine job of juggling laughs with scares, but pulls off a hat trick by mixing in some high drama in the fierce finale. He’s definitely a filmmaker to watch.
Best line: “Your bone is ruining my grater.”
2009, rated R.