What new wine can be poured into the cracked old bottles of the serial killer movie? Although the sub-genre is less than 20 years old (kicking off with Silence of the Lambs and peaking with David Fincher’s Se7en), it has quite literally been done to death. Yet, public appetite remains unabated, and Hollywood continues to cater to the bloodlust, with one homicide thriller after another (more often than not with a female lead doubling as both dragon-slayer and damsel-in-distress).
The latest offering in this tawdry lineage is Untraceable, directed by Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear, Fracture) and starring Diane Lane as FBI agent Jennifer Walsh. Walsh, who specialises in internet crimes, stumbles upon a mysterious snuff website during her cyber patrol. At killwithme.com, murders are being streamed live, with an ingenious twist: victims are rigged to a series of grisly death traps, and the more hits the site gets, the faster they die.
Besides this queasy twist, Untraceable is strictly filmmaking-by-numbers; it offers few surprises and barely scrapes by as an evening’s morbid divertissement. Shot in the metallic, washed-out colours of a cinema commercial, with performances and dialogue only slightly above the level of TV melodrama, the best that can be said about Untraceable is that it’s never boring, and never actually insults its audience. Instead, it glumly serves up the goods, catering to an increasingly dubious demand for sadistic enactments of murder under the guise of entertainment – ironically enough, the very thing the film purports to be denouncing, Strictly for homicide aficionados.
General release from Fri 29 Feb.