Monday 1 August 2016

15 Second Review: Natalie's Lose Lose

Natalie’s Lose Lose (2012) is a no-budget horror film that succeeds on a couple of fronts. First, unlike so many other ultra-low budget films, the performances are generally solid here. Second, the direction is well-judged; the tight close-ups create a claustrophobic atmosphere and even manage to mask some of the budgetary shortcomings that would otherwise be evident in the set-design, costuming and so forth. However, while Natalie’s Lose Lose prospers in areas where others flounder, it struggles when it comes to delivering the most essential aspect: its story. With a running time of only 80 minutes the film ought to feel brisk, yet it drags. Natalie’s Lose Lose is illustrative of a problem with feature filmmaking; if it had been viable to release the film as a 45-minute piece, it could have been edited into a taught, exciting tale. As it stands, it is bloated. The main reason it feels so sluggish is that the film is mainly constituted by dialogue. As a movie that clearly draws on the torture-horror boom of the era, it really ought to have contained more torture. The problem is not a lack of violence per se; after all, many reviewers complain about being “bored” by torture porn’s “endless” agony. Rather, some threat is needed in order to motivate the eponymous protagonist. Natalie never seems fazed by the challenges she faces, and that makes it hard to empathise with her situation. She just does not seem to care that she has been kidnapped. Perversely, one of the overarching reasons that Natalie’s Lose Lose is so uninvolving is that there is also no hope for the protagonist, however stoic – perhaps even blasé – she is about the whole affair. As the title overtly states, Natalie is in a “lose-lose” situation. Consequently, the narrative comes across as an exercise in prolonging the inevitable, offering no hint that Natalie might escape her fate (or indeed, that she will even bother to try). The most fundamental problem, however, is that the narrative ultimately makes little sense. The film offers a final “twist” in order to explain why the abductors would have motive to kill Natalie, but they are given no incentive to question or torment her. Since the film is entirely constituted by questioning and tormenting Natalie, the “twist” renders the film’s content redundant. Unfortunately, watching this movie is a “lose-lose”.

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