Out of One Prison and Into Another
Main Cast: Famke Janssen and Babby Cannavale
Director: Eric Red
After a few years “out of circulation” shall we say–she was in prison for murdering her husband–in self-defense, she claims–Marnie Watson (Famke Janssen, X-Men) is home. I mean home for REAL. Like, house arrest home. Luckily she’s got a sweet New York pad, cuz she’s about to spend a WHOLE lot of time there. And her husband Mike’s ex-partner Shanks (Bobby Cannavale, “Third Watch”) is on the scene parked right outside to make sure she abides by the rules of her house arrest. Those rules include and are limited to the following: Don’t go further than 100 feet from the transmitter in the center of her house.
Ain’t no thang, Marnie thinks. She’s got a grocery store that delivers, and a fine young piece of meat named Joey who, while several years Marnie’s junior, seems all too willing and able to sweep out her cobwebs. She might have a job as a salesperson who works from home. What more does a gal need?
Well, it would be nice if the ghost of her abusive ex-husband got the hint and stopped creeping around the apartment, slamming Marnie’s head into things whenever the mood struck.
100 Feet is a horror movie from writer/director Eric Red who, during his career, has been responsible for some really good horror movies (The Hitcher and Near Dark), and some less than stellar ones as well (Body Parts and Bad Moon) and is apparently using what he’s learned over the decades to craft his, to date, masterpiece of middle of the road horror.
As a director, he’s got a good eye for tension, and has created a very dramatic, edge-of-your-seat ride during this film’s climax–only to then ruin everything he’d built up by adding that completely unnecessary and ill-conceived special effect shot that could easily have been culled from any dozen other cheap ghost movies. But when you factor in some of the other scenes, like Marnie’s journey under the floor when she discovers some loose floorboards in her bedroom, or the awesomely grotesque scene where Mike takes out his anger on the juvenile Joey after the ex-Mrs. Watson and the young grocery store delivery guy have spent a night rattling the headboard, you can’t help but admit Red may be coasting on autopilot during a few of the lesser moments of this story, but when it really counts, he’s got the chops to make an effective horror movie.
As a writer, however … yeah … I’m just saying PLOT may be his strong suit well over dialogue. Especially some of the faux tough guy drivel he gives Shanks to say. Or Marnie’s faux tough girl act when she’s trying to drive Mike’s ghost away. And that final “It’s over!” in the basement just before the really terrible special effect that works against the movie. I had to shake my head several times during some of these line reads.
But plot? Eric Red knows his stuff.
As for the acting, I’ve always been a big Famke Janssen fan, and, aside from my friend Mike, who isn’t? She may not always be great, but when she’s good in something, she really commits. And this time around, she’s left to carry the entire movie, and I thought she did so with great ease. Janssen has always had an air about her of knowing she was slightly on a higher plain than normal humans, and I’ll give her that, because it’s never made her feel like an unlikable character, even when she’s playing the vilest of the vile (“Hemlock Grove”). And her character, Marnie, here, also has something about her that smacks of “raised in privilege” while still striving to play a normal, everyday, around the way woman. Marnie may have been raised with money, but she never let it go to her head, and when she gets home from prison, she knows why she’s where she is, and to her any indignity or hardship is worth it to be free of her abuser.
I’d been seeking this movie out for several years as part of a plan to watch and review a slew of SciFi original movies (which I’ve never gotten around to), but the DVD copy kept slipping through my fingers when I wasn’t prepared to pay full price. Luckily I happened upon a used copy for $1.99 and snatched it up. And I don’t regret that decision. 100 Feet isn’t the best ghost movie I’ve ever seen, but where it succeeds, it does so in spades. It knows what it is and it makes those limitations work for it. And if you watch it alone in a pitch black room, those tense moments are all the more effective, giving this movie some excellent scares, resulting in a solid recommendation.