BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
MARCH 11, 2012
When has a Faustian bargain ever worked out for anyone? As soon as you make a deal with the devil, something always tends to turn sour. Not that Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) has much of a choice after his mother is burned alive right in front of him and his neighbor is chopped into bits, all by the dinosaur-masked, hooded men stalking him. “Heartless” takes a new spin on one of the oldest stories ever told and successfully creates a darkly original horror film.
Without the cast willing to take this film to the dark crevices it needed to go, “Heartless” would have been like that, void of any heart. Jim Sturgess proves he can step away from his romantic comedy roles like One Day, yet takes his 21 performance even darker, mixing revenge-ridden and love-stricken to a fantastic combination. Joseph Mawle as Papa B (aka the devil of the story) fills the role almost too perfectly, reflecting a picture-perfect image of what we tend to associate with the devil. And Clémence Poésy has just the right sweetness-to-sex-appeal to keep the film interesting.
Along with some great performances, writer-director Phillip Ridley, who hasn’t directed a film since 1995, and cinematographer Matt Gray find a way to turn this dark side of London into a surreal land of hell. Using subtle CGI in creating the demonic, prehistoric gang members and some impressive prosthetic work in a scene where Jamie sheds his burnt skin, Heartless rises above being just another horror film.
The downside of “Heartless” is the plot and its desire to be entirely outside the box. Often you can see straight through a poorly written story. To give credit to Phillip Ridley, he handled the dialogue of the characters just fine, delivering some memorable moments between Jamie and Papa B. However, a handful of unneeded moments existed to drag the plot in the direction the director wanted, without appearing formed or justified in any way, riding the fine line of melodramatic.
Built on a solid base of well-known actors and impressive work from art direction and make-up, “Heartless” successfully overcomes its low budget, intermittent weak plot, and graphic nature to remit a worthwhile horror film.
November 19, 2010