Written by: Christopher O’Neill on March 2nd, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: USA 2008 (Festival Screenings)
Director: Eric Red
Writer: Eric Red
Cast: Famke Jansen, Bobby Cannavale, Ed Westwick, Michael Pare, Patricia Charbonneau
DVD released: March 2nd, 2009
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English
DVD Release: DNC Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99
After a twelve-year hiatus, Eric Red – screenwriter of THE HITCHER and NEAR DARK, director of BODY PARTS and BAD MOON – returns with the compelling supernatural thriller 100 FEET. As he demonstrated in the earlier works, Red has the ability to create imaginative genre scenarios that are often too fantastic or outlandish to be acceptable within a believable context, yet are populated by credible characters who are grounded in a relatable reality. Marnie is such a figure, a woman who is flawed yet ultimately a decent, and therefore sympathetic, person. Since its plot evolves around a female character trapped within an imposing interior location, Roman Polanski’s REPULSION and Mario Bava’s SHOCK would appear to be influences but what makes 100 FEET different from these pictures is that its protagonist is neither a victim of psychological problems or neurotic guilt. Instead, Marnie is a strong-willed and fiercely independent woman who is trapped not just by the physicality of the electronic bracelet but also by uncontrollable event in her past.
100 FEET is an excellent example of how a low-budget feature can outshine many of its larger-scale contemporaries since every aspect of the film is finely tuned to maximize its modest potential. The screenplay is compact with a narrative that is paced slowly to build suspense while characterization is expanded through action and lean dialogue. Likewise, Red has a low-key but effective visual style that nicely exploits the potentially restrictive single location and generates an atmospheric seclusion. The subdued yet detailed imagery, rich with shadow and various shades of light, would benefit greatly from a theatrical screening rather than its home video presentation. Acknowledgment must go to regular Abel Ferrara collaborators cinematographer Ken Kelsch (who also makes an amusing on-screen appearance) and editor Anthony Redman, who both contribute to flawlessly achieving Red’s vision. While the film draws to a reasonable conclusion, the final act of the film is a bit of a letdown. After sustaining a lingering sense of suspense throughout, the final scenes feel rushed and are wrapped up sooner than anticipated, especially after a truly nasty (and effective) scene in which the full extent of the ghost’s powers are unleashed on an unfortunate victim, suggested a more complex and rewarding ending.
For a film that essentially focuses on a single character whom not only appears in every scene but often by herself, the casting of that central role is vital and it is the performance by Famke Jansen that ultimately makes 100 FEET a success. Red’s screenplay may create a credible figure with Marnie, but this is still a genre film where the plot takes priority over characterization so it is left to Jansen to encapsulate the subtler elements of the character. Although she has proven throughout her career to be a capable actress, here Jansen is given the opportunity to singularly carry an entire film and this she does magnificently. Bobby Cannavale (as the suspicious detective) and Ed Westwick (as a delivery boy who takes a shine to Marnie) offer strong support, while the wonderful but underrated Patricia Charbonneau (CALL ME, SHAKEDOWN) makes a memorable appearance as Marnie’s bitterly jealous sister. Michael Pare (STREETS OF FIRE) contributes a small but crucial performance as the ghost.
DNC Entertainment presents 100 FEET in a ravishing transfer that frames the film in its full cinemascope dimensions. The anamorphic 2:35:1 widescreen image is flawless, perfectly capturing Kelsch’s cinematic workmanship that, unsurprisingly for a production dating from 2008, does not contain a speck of damage or grain. It is a shame that 100 FEET has gone straight-to-DVD in the UK (and will apparently make its US debut on the Sci-Fi Channel) since the small-screen presentation does not do the film justice.
The soundtrack is nicely rendered in both Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround.
The only extra is a solid trailer, also presented at 2:35:1 anamorphic.
Despite the flawed final act, 100 FEET is an exceptionally well-made supernatural thriller blessed with a brilliant performance from Famke Jansen.