Horror review: Die

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, NOV. 2, 2011

By Steve Newton

Name a horror film with three letters in its title that’s about a group of strangers who are kidnapped, held prisoner, and forced by a calmly voiced psychopath to play twisted games that decide whether their fellow captives live or die a slow, torturous death.

The obvious answer is Saw, of course, but it’s not the only one that fits the bill anymore. A new Italian-Canadian production called Die is about to introduce horror fans to a kinder, gentler world of torture porn.

Who knew that was even possible!

In Angle Mort director Dominic James’s English-feature debut, six troubled people on the brink of suicide—a nurse, a doctor, a cop, a prostitute, a gambler, and a businessman—find themselves waking up in glass-walled cells, at the mercy of bearded longhair Jacob Odessa (John Pyper-Ferguson). He’s the grown-up version of the poor kid from the opening scene whose unhinged father (Pontypool’s Stephen McHattie) forced him to roll a single die to decide how many bullets would be used for a game of Russian roulette. Now the deranged Jacob makes his victims roll the bone and, as always, the odds favour the house (of horrors).

While Jacob does his part to ease Earth’s overpopulation, a beautiful cop (former Bond girl Caterina Murino) tries to uncover links between the missing six and track them down before it’s too late. She does a much more convincing job of it than Danny Glover did in Saw, thankfully. In fact, the entire main cast of Die creates believable characters you can sympathize with—unlike the cookie-cutter sleazeballs Jigsaw rips apart.

The convincing performances, restrained direction, and engrossing score of Die keep you interested, for the most part, but there’s a pretentious vibe about the film that gets increasingly noticeable as you near its lofty conclusion. For something spawned in a torture chamber, it seems to think pretty highly of itself.

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