Review by Jack Foley
EVER since David Fincher re-launched the serial killer genre with Se7en filmmakers have been falling over themselves to imitate it without taking on board some of its crucial lessons: that less is most definitely more.
Fincher’s film excelled by never showing too much, whereas the likes of Saw seem to be taking an increasingly perverse glee in gore with the result that we’re now trapped in a tedious culture of torture porn (as epitomised by the likes of Hostel and Captivity).
Tom Shankland’s curiously named WAZ (or W-delta-Z) attempts to marry the two concepts but falls horrifically foul of Fincher’s Se7en and some way short of even the original Saw. It’s a nasty, pretentious and sordid little movie that somehow attracted a far better cast than it deserves.
New York cops Eddie Argo (Stellan Skarsgard) and Helen Westcott (Melissa George) investigate a series of murders where the victims have been tortured in front of their loved ones and could volunteer to die in their place. Symbols have also been carved into their bodies that relate to an equation based on animal behaviour.
As the body count mounts, Eddie traces the crimes back to one of his past cases, in which the perpetrators of an horrific rape and murder were never brought to justice. Could it be that one of the victims has come back to seek revenge? And how innocent is Eddie in the scheme of things?
To be fair, Clive Bradley’s screenplay sets up some intriguing questions based around human behaviour and the primal instinct to survive. But it’s bogged down by some abhorrent violence (mostly shown in flashback), wafer-thin or objectionable characters and a plot that becomes increasingly more absurd the longer it lasts.
The usually reliable Stellan Skarsgard appears to be sleepwalking through proceedings, while Selma Blair (as the prime suspect) eventually feels more short-changed than Elisha Cuthbert in Captivity last year once the full extent of her suffering is realised.
Shankland has cleverly shot the film so that New York feels grubby and claustrophobic (no mean feat given that it was filmed mostly in Belfast) and there’s a sense of dread that’s maintained throughout. But this has more to do with seeing just how low the director will stoop in showing the torture, most of which will leave you feeling genuinely queasy afterwards.
In the final analysis, WAZ is no more than just another pretender to Fincher’s crown that commits the cardinal sin of voyeurism where a little more restraint would have helped. It’s a lamentable excuse for on-screen depravity that really should be ignored.
Running time: 105mins
UK DVD Release Date: June 16, 2008