Available on VOD through Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Fandango Now, Vudu, Playstation, and other outlets
Released Oct. 2, 2018
Unrated (equivalent to R rating for strong violence, sadistic behavior, disturbing content, and language) – 1hr 43min
Directed by Anthony DiBlasi
Starring Dana Christina, Chad Rook, J. LaRose
A young woman with a very troubled past turns to the services of an extreme haunt, Perdition, to help her overcome her traumas as a form of highly intensive shock therapy. Neither she nor the group who operates the haunt fully appreciate what they’re committing themselves to.
Extremity can be described as a unique take on the ‘torture porn’ subgenre, famously brought into the mainstream by the Saw franchise, in that the protagonist willingly volunteers herself for an ordeal that is fully controlled. The conflict comes from how greatly she underestimates both the impact on her fragile psyche and the desperation of the haunt’s lead organizer to put his attraction on the proberbial map. This all places the focus less on either peril or gore and more on profoundly uncomfortable explorations of the aftermath of physical and sexual abuse – until it’s about gore.
Extremity is a rather ambitious movie dressed in a particularly unambitious shell. It strives to tackle extremely heavy issues while ultimately being a ‘house of horrors’ flick, focused on loads of creepy imagery and loud noises (seriously, it’s noisy as fuck). By taking on these themes – incestuous rape, child abuse, suicide, sexual dysfunction, war trauma – it definitely raises the curve of difficulty for itself. The whole endeavor is going to seem cheap and pointless if it’s parading these things around merely for the shock value without a single meaningful thing to say about them. As such, it’s cheap and pointless.
That’s not to say that disturbing issues can’t even be mentioned without a requirement to dive into a deep and thoughtful exploration of the subject matter, but Extremity structures itself in such a way that it seems to believe that it is that kind of exploration. We see in one of MANY flashbacks that the lead character Allison (Christina) divulges the darkest details of her traumas to the head honcho at Perdition, leading him to custom tailor her experience around them. His failures then become the movie’s failures, since that product is the ordeal we’re following throughout. For all the time it spends addressing these weighty topics, it has nothing more to say than ‘fucked-up people do fucked-up things that fuck up people who go on to do fucked-up things’. If a film is going to plumb the darkest depths of the human experience, then it really needs to do better than such basic bullshit. It can’t, so what starts as compelling becomes numbing then boring, before flying off the rails entirely in a turnabout that isn’t satisfying or convincing.
This is all very regrettable too, since one of director Anthony DiBlasi’s previous films, Last Shift, is among my favorites from the last several years. That movie, however, was much smaller in scope thematically than Extremity is – it’s just a really good ghost story set inside a police station. He also wrote that screenplay, which he apparently designed to play to his strengths as a filmmaker, whereas he did not write Extremity, and to be honest, the direction, from a visual standpoint, isn’t the problem here. In that regard, the movie works just fine, with a lot of effective and striking imagery, but the story absolutely bungles what could have been an amazing premise. Regardless of those issues, however, Dana Christina isn’t quite up to the task of what is really quite a challenging lead role. She can sell her character’s fear and indignant rage, but she just doesn’t have the nuance to pull off the neutral state of being a highly damaged person struggling mightily with daily life and intimate relationships or the transformed state of being a delusional cold-blooded maniac. She’s not awful, but it’s worth noting.
Extremity has a mess of other problems too, like a subplot involving a Japanese reporter and her misogynist cameraman that goes absolutely nowhere and only seems to exist to provide roles to a couple of prominent J-horror figures for the sake of international marketing. They’re in it a lot too, which only makes it more bothersome that it’s a narrative dead end. There’s also not one but two different anti-horror tirades in this film. When the horror-obsessed woman goes on a killing spree just as her naysayers predicted, that seems less like parody or a coherent statement and more of an embarrassing lack of self-awareness. It might make sense in the warped logic of a Troma movie, but it doesn’t here.
While this film isn’t a complete failure, it might have worked much better with simpler characters and themes. Instead, it set its aim high and shot particularly low.
Extremity gets a