By JAMES TUCKER
Starring Dana Christina, Chad Rook, Dylan Sloane
Directed by Anthony DiBlasi
Written by David Bond, Rebecca Swan
Produced by Dark Elegy Films
I seem to be in a mood to review Shudder’s more recent releases. It’s no secret that Shudder is one of my favorite streaming services, and they’ve released some fantastic films over the last couple months: The Room, Daniel isn’t Real, Satanic Panic, all Shudder originals or exclusives that have gotten no shortage of well-deserved press. Along with these widely marketed releases Shudder tends to drop films that get lost in the cracks, not given the proper attention they deserve. EXTREMITY wasn’t necessarily one of those, but I thought I’d squeeze it in on a technicality as I heard it was the kind of properly bonkers movie we like to watch here in the Sematary. And it WAS pretty out there, but not necessarily in a good way. Keep reading, I’ll explain.
First, the plot. EXTREMITY follows Allison Belle (Dana Christina) after a fight with her girlfriend (Nikki Rae Hallow) and a pretty severe disagreement with her therapist (Chantal Perron) as she signs up for Perdition, the film’s equivalent of McKamey Manor. She has decades worth of trauma she hasn’t properly dealt with, and she hopes that Perdition will force her to face her fears in a way she never has before. She joins Zachary (Dylan Sloane) and goes through an intense, violating, no-holds barred experience while the Voice (Chad Rook) attempts to extract (through torture, basically) the root of her trauma. What follows includes two Japanese reporters streaming the experience internationally, a dead relative that occasionally pops out to say hi, a tortured veteran who waterboards people for fun, and an incestuous rape clan that would make the mutants in The Hills Have Eyes seek therapy.
“This film takes things to extremes that would make Rob Zombie blush.”
EXTREMITY comes off as a thought experiment, an attempt to explain why people who attend extreme haunts (and the people who run them) do what they do. The film’s thesis is that extreme haunts act as a kind of exorcism, a rapid, messy form of therapy where when the experience ends, the participants all gain a bit of self-knowledge and walk away from it as better people. It isn’t particularly subtle about it, and I’ll take this opportunity to say that subtlety really isn’t in this film’s toolbox at any point; I had to triple check to make sure Ed Lee wasn’t credited as a writer here, because this film can take things to extremes that would make Rob Zombie blush. Allow me to take this opportunity to plaster this film with trigger warnings: if you don’t feel like hearing about rape or child abuse (the latter of which this film gets a bit creative with), or just don’t want to see a scene where the protagonist is forced to masturbate while watching acts of brutality, this is NOT the movie for you.
Every point of the main character’s backstory seems calculated to be the most edgy and “shocking” thing one can imagine; in fact, the entire way the character is treated can be summed up in the opening scene, where she reveals a tattoo that says “it’s the fate of glass to break” before stepping out of the shower and immediately cutting herself. It feels so over the top that it’s almost a caricature of trauma, the main character the kind of caricature one would see in r/menwritingwomen. She’s a lesbian and she doesn’t like men because her father abused her; she’s a hard case who lashes out against the world but she’s actually fragile, ready to fall apart at any second. I don’t know, maybe I’m being too hard here.
Hinging your plot on a character with such severe flaws can make it hard to take the film seriously, but luckily the film deals well with its other characters. The Voice, or Red Skull as he’s known later on, is a fully fleshed out character with a tragic backstory and a solid motive for what he does. His cronies are also all given screen time, given a bit of backstory by a random camera crew from Japan (Which is seriously where this movie about lost me, because seriously guys, why do these characters exist? Save to make a shitty joke about sexual harassment in the workplace?), and I believe this is meant to help us understand that they all believe they’re doing a public service. I love haunts. But there’s a difference between Halloween Horror Nights and McKamey Manor, a difference the film sorta/kinda acknowledges in its climax when Red Skull goes too far. I’m almost positive that this was meant to be an uplifting film for horror fans, a reminder of the therapeutic power of horror and the bonds that draw us together as a community. But in the end, I’m not really sure it managed to drive that, or anything else, home.
I’m not going to pretend to be a hundred percent unbiased here. Plainly, this is not my kind of horror. To each their own, and if extreme horror is your thing, you might enjoy EXTREMITY. I’m just one guy expressing his opinion. And what I think this movie is worth is a solid four out of ten. This movie had its moments, but those moments were largely overshadowed by the film’s insistence on shallow/flawed characterization and lack of substance in favor of… well, EXTREMITY.
Next week, we cover Hulu’s Feral. Stay tuned.