For a lot of us, the name Eric Red means something. Sure, it’s not works like Undertow with Lou Diamond Phillips and Charles Dance (honestly, I haven’t seen that, so I can’t attest to its quality, but I am aware of its existence) or Bad Moon (loved the book it was based on - Thor by Wayne Smith - and thought some of the acting and FX absolutely KILLED what was a great story), but a couple of other films. You may know the ones I’m talking about - The Hitcher and Near Dark. If all the man had contributed to was those two films, he would go down in genre and fanboy history. As it is, Body Parts is still kinda groovy as far as I’m concerned. But we have not come here for that - his latest flick, as both writer and director, 100 Feet, may not be as kickass as the classics he’s been involved in, but is plenty entertaining in its own right.
100 Feet is the story of Marnie Watson (Famke Janssen), just released after some years in prison for killing her husband, Mike (Michael Pare). See, he used to beat the shit out of her, and upon learning that she was finally going to divorce him, he went after her in a way that meant one thing: either he killed her (which he fully intended to do) or she killed him (which she did in self-defense). So now she’s back home, but has to wear an ankle bracelet that allows her limited movement within the old brownstone apartment she used to share with Mike; no more than. . .yeah, just read the title and you’ve got it. So she’s trapped. More than that, Mike’s old partner Shanks (Bobby Cannavale) refuses to leave her alone as he HATES her for killing his boy. That would suck in and of itself. . .not being able to leave the place where you’d been beaten senseless for years, filing police report after report only to have Mike’s friends bury them to protect a fellow officer. . .all your neighbors who were your friends before are now ignoring you as a pariah. . .but all that pales in comparison to one thing: Mike’s still around. As a ghost. And he’s pissed. So what do you do when you’re confined to one space, but something in that space wants you dead?
So, poor Marnie. . .you will suffer all of that abuse again, only this time no one will EVER believe you. You must be crazy, mad with guilt over the awful crime you’ve committed, and all of this must be a manifestation of the regret and remorse you feel over killing your husband.
But that ain’t the case. As Marnie says at one point, “you know the saying, ‘til death do us part? What a crock of shit.”
I think that 100 Feet is a highly effective ghost story, scary and intense in equal measure. Red gives us many slow. . .breath-catching. . .suspenseful. . .scenes that will scare the shit out of you. They’re played out much like that; you get the set-up, then you wait and wait and wait for something horrible to happen. Sometimes they do and sometimes you’re left waiting when the hammer will come down. Pare is particularly good in his part; perhaps because he has no speaking lines (unfair shot, I know, but c’mon - the man was never a great actor, just a good-looking one). Cannavale plays his part well enough as a man who holds true to the line “cops never make mistakes,” but he learns the hard way that perhaps he should have been paying more attention all along.
But the person who makes this all work, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Janssen as Marnie. Now, there’s no way to disregard the fact that she’s a beautiful woman. But I never, EVER, thought that she would grow into herself as an actress the way she has. By turns she is frightened, strong, meek, angry, scared and determined. She’s in damn near every scene and Janssen carries the movie without an ounce of visible strain. I’m not sure if she was always this talented or if she just learned on the job, but she gets it done and then some. It’s a fantastic performance and I hope to see more from her on this level; bottom line is that she’s set the bar pretty goddamn high for herself.
The FX in the scenes with Pare’s ghost are well-done; he looks insubstantial and not quite there, kind of like heat rising from a concrete road a half-mile ahead. There’s a shimmery quality to him that lets you know that he’s otherworldly and has you questioning what he can and can’t do, right up until he sends someone flying across a room. Speaking of, the movie was almost all mood and atmosphere up to a point - it had me wondering, “is the guy who wrote those awesome scenes of carnage and depravity in The Hitcher, the guy who had a hand in the bar sequence in Near Dark - is he trying to get all respectable on us? Is this going to be like The Others (which, by the way, I adore, and would have no problem with anybody telling a story that effectively)?
But no. The man is simply biding his time; there does come a point where he reminds you just how little he’s willing to fuck around - and how he will, with no hesitation, horrify and disgust you in the best possible way. So enjoy that when it comes. I know I did.
I understand there’s an unrated version that adds between 5-10 minutes to the running time, but I only saw the original cut on a DVD from The Asylum that is nearly devoid of extras, featuring only a trailer and...the box the movie comes in. Still, I’m here to tell you that A) Eric Red tells a tale that’s interesting enough to keep you glued to your seat, B) Famke Janssen is still an absolutely gorgeous woman who is a fine enough actress to keep you concerned for her plight and C) that 100 Feet is one hell of a ghost story. More proof that even if you confine your story to (almost exclusively) to one location, if you tell it right and do it with conviction, you’ll come out on the other side victorious. 100 Feet gets the job done, does it with style and scares to spare (don’t lose your ring the way Marnie does, is all I’ll say), and leaves you stoked that people are still willing to get it done old-school style. Just a pleasant surprise all the way around.