Aloha Bitches! I have returned…what do you mean, you hadn’t noticed I had gone? Or cared? But I might have a spectacular and involving story to tell about my absence. Featuring a montage set to ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Westlife. I don’t obviously. But there was the sliver of a possibility that I might have. Then who would have looked foolish? Well, I’ve started this epic return by rambling to my audience (aka, me, forever alone) in the manner of unstable person so I may as well continue. Basically my work schedule was changed for a while to some pretty unsociable hours, this has recently been changed again and therefore have time to write again…and Christ this is so dull I’m in danger of actually boring myself to death, and it’s my life I’m talking about. The option of death by boredom is fitting, as I also nearly suffered the same terrible fate by watching Walled In. Yes, my ability to segue seamlessly to the film I am reviewing has not diminished; you’ll be relieved to learn I’m sure. So Walled In, a 2009 film featuring erstwhile The O.C actress Misha Barton and a giant ugly as sin building, manages the near incredible feat of taking a truly horrifying method of killing, and making a film about it that is unutterably lacklustre and left wanting on pretty much all levels. Which is, if not actually impressive, at least merits me writing several pages of nonsense about it. And even if it doesn’t, I’m going to do it anyway, because I’m just that damn…I don’t know, wacky or some stupid thing. Spoilers to follow.
It Looks Like She Wearing A Rucksack Made From Human Skin.
The film eases the audience in gently by depicting the murder of a child in possibly one of the cruellest ways possible – drowned in cement as she cries for her Dad. It’s like it’s the harshest Crystal Maze challenge ever and she just ran out of time. She wasn’t the only victim, 16 other unfortunate folks perished in the same miserable manner. The chief suspect is nowhere to be found and the trail has gone cold, according to the newspaper reports which flash up over the opening credits. This, by the way, has become a really lazy trope of horror films that have an opening scene set many years before the main event. What’s wrong with, I don’t know, writing a decent script in which such information can be told to the audience organically.
Don’t Be Sad Young’un. You Were In The Only Decent Scene In The Film.
No time to dwell though, it’s now 15 years later and Sam (Mischa Barton) is having maybe the least fun birthday ever. Or so it would appear to be, as she looks so listless and uninvolved. She should be happy, she’s the first member of her family to graduate from college, which as we all know is a fire sure why to get an amazing job because employers are all about degrees and that these days. Not that such quibbles worry Sam, as she’s automatically snagged herself an awesome job at her Father’s Blowing Up Buildings firm.
Her first assignment is to travel to the actual arse end of nowhere and survey a massive apartment block that has been ordered to be demolished. As Sam drives down a dusty highway towards said arse end she inner monologues about hunting and how awesome it is and how it’s just like how knocking down buildings gives her a sexual high. Frankly it’s hard to believe anything on this planet would excite her enough to raise her voice above the leaden monotone that is on display all throughout the film.
Sam arrives at the building due to be demolished and it’s supposed to have been designed by this utter architectural genius who makes Frank Lloyd Wright look like a fucking pleb, but it is one of the ugliest pile of bricks that I have ever seen. The dude who designed this thing would never have had a Simon and Garfunkel song named after him. Sam lets herself into the building and after gazing at a seemingly random scratch on the wall (for that read: massive foreshadowing of occult symbol!) for a while she is greeted by the building’s caretaker/supervisor Mary. Mary is vaguely creepy, and she has a son, Jimmy, who is vaguely more creepy and is the proud owner of the eyebrows of a serial killer and a fat dog. Mary tasks Jimmy with showing Sam around, and to the apartment in which she’ll be staying.
Best Episode Of Homes Under The Hammer Ever.
Sam and Jimmy engage in a seriously well fought ‘Who Can Speak The Most Relentlessly In A Dreary Monotone Competition’ as he shows her around. The lights go off every 6 minutes which is clearly stupid and will only be used in order to have jump scare moments later on. His list of rules includes avoiding the 8th floor where Malestrazza, the ‘genius’ architect, lived before his disappearance and the roof. Oh, and no smoking. Fascist. Jimmy shows her to her apartment, 208, and Sam tries to contact her boyfriend. She mentions to him that it’s weird that Malestrazza is spoken of as if he were still alive and then her phone cuts off, which she seems surprised by. C’mon Sam, you’re at a creepy, isolated location with only suspicious freaks for company. Of course there isn’t going to be any phone signal, has she not seen any suspense films made in the last 20 years? She then has a bath and lies under the water for a bit, but then she freaks out and remembers that humans can’t breathe under water. She hears odd sounds coming from inside the walls and walks around in tiny shorts because that’s what horror heroines do, God Dammit.
Mary pops up and offers her bread and wine. Oh, and exposition. There are only four tenants still left in the property. Then why the fuck do all the utilities all still work? Who’s paying all the surely huge bills this place must generate? She asks condescendingly if Sam knows the history of the building. Sam says she doesn’t, and even if that’s true the fact that it’s a place where 16 people were killed, you’d think her Dad would have mentioned it; “Happy Birthday darling, here’s a murder house” style of thing. The former tenants of the apartment Sam is staying in apparently just up and left their pad, all decked out for Christmas. Sam snoops about a bit, but doesn’t find anything. Scintillating stuff. Sam meets one of the two other remaining tenants, a less than sane old lady, she and further talks to herself about the spirituality of knocking down ugly as fuck buildings. I’m sure it’s all very impressive if you’re a real engineer but Mischa Barton’s flat delivery makes it sound like the dullest and most annoying thing a human could ever do. As she studies the plans to the property she realises that the walls are 16ft closer than on the blueprints. Aye, that would be the bodies. She goes to investigate by climbing onto the roof, thus breaking one of Jimmy’s rules. She finds Jimmy’s little lair, and his diary, which has some questionable cut out pictures of scantily clad ladies with their eyes blacked out, having ‘whore’ scribbled on them and similar. Whereas for you, and me, and other folk with more than two brain cells to their name this would ring serious alarm bells it doesn’t warrant more than an eye-roll from Sam. He reads his diary; Jimmy is already showing signs of becoming obsessed with her.
He For Sure Burnt Ants Through A Magnify Glass As A Child. Probably Still Does.
Sam uses the internet at a local store to look up the history of the house, and learns that Malestrazza is missing, presumed dead, and that other strange occurrences have happened at other buildings he designed, such as the all surviving natural disasters. She looks this up on I Love Earthquakes.Com by the way, aka ‘I Enjoy Other’s Misfortune When Their Homes Crumble To Rubble, LOL. Com’. Remember Jimmy’s slightly unhealthy interest in Sam? Want to know what her brilliant plan is to deal with the situation? She encourages him of course, du’h! He takes Sam around some of the other abandoned properties in the area. He doesn’t go to school and has one whole friend. What a catch. She accuses him of lying about Malestrazza being alive, although she didn’t believe that in the first place anyway. He says he’ll take her up to the 8th floor that night and prove it to her. Mary, who seems to get more heavily botoxed with every scene, slaps her son and tells him to stay away from Sam. For an awful moment I think they’re going to kiss but she swerves away at the last second to whisper in his ear that no one can take care of him like she can, which still registers fairly highly on the creepy meter.
Jimmy, whose wardrobe seems to exclusively be composed of various shades of the colour brown, sits and does that angsty teenage brooding thing that I find intensely irritating while Sam gets attacked by an axe wielding nutter upset at the building being knocked down. Crazy old lady invites her in for tea and it turns out she is looking after all of Malestrazza’s books, (all of which are engraved with the strange symbol Sam saw in the building earlier), one of which Sam promptly steals. Crazy old lady’s theory on the murders is that she didn’t get entombed is because she is a good person so therefore has nothing to fear. Sam reads the book she took. She reads it out loud in that way they do in films when a character is reading alone and always comes off as clumsy. Apparently some people believe that human energy can empower buildings or something way too stupid to even pretend to take seriously and using the fear and death are the best way to do this. Ancient Egyptians were keen on this practise.
Why Are You Looking So Despondent? I’m The One Who Has To Watch The Sodding Film.
Sam and Jimmy go up to explore the 8th floor. Jimmy tells Sam about Johnny, who was suspected of the murders based on a prior rape conviction (which is a pretty big fucking leap on behalf of the police). We learn that Sam is living in the apartment of the little girl from the beginning, whose name was Julie. Jimmy, the creepy wee bastard, knows how to show a girl a good time as he takes her on a death tour, showing her where his dad died a horrible death. Hot. There’s more clunky dialogue about just how very dead Malestrazza is. Yep, totally dunzo. Except, no one really knew what he looked like so hey audience, he could still be alive (wink nudge). A shadowy figure looms up, the lights go out and Sam runs about screaming unenthusiastically. For a 15 year old boy to come to her aid, for shame lady. She hears children singing, and when I say singing I mean 100% wholesale ripping off the nursery rhyme from Nightmare On Elm Street. Jimmy finds her and leads her to safety. There’s some odd sexual tension. He asks to see her knee so he can clean it and instead of rolling her trouser leg up like any person trying to deflect the inappropriate crush of a teenager she strips off to her knickers. Dear Penthouse Forum indeed. She finally realises this may be unsuitable behaviour and tells him to stop caressing her inner thigh. He runs off, probably to cry and masturbate somewhere I would think. In another unsubtle nod to Nightmare On Elm Street hands appear from the wall and pull her through it, where she suffers the same fate as the unlucky 16, drowned in concrete as her screams go unheeded. But this is all a dream. Which is a relief, because I’m so invested in her character and her emotional journey (think of the most deadpan face you can think of. That’s the face I made as I typed that sentence).
Morph’s Mate Chas Got Really Handsy When He’d Had A Few Drinks.
The next morning, Sam is transfixed by a red cross spray painted on one of her walls. She moves towards it so slowly I age about 4 years in the process. Then her boyfriend Peter pops up as a surprise. They immediately jump into investigative mode (Peter needs minimal convincing that something dodgy is afoot it seems) and go and question the guy who attacked Sam with an axe, Bennett. He denies chasing her round the 8th floor as he is disabled and needs oxygen tanks to help him breathe. Sam takes Peter up to see the 8th floor. They find Mary talking to her husband’s death site. She then accidentally locks them in. They find a trapdoor, go down the ladder and find themselves in the room where the bins are kept. Glamorous. Sam accuses Jimmy of spying on her in the bath using a two way mirror she saw on her way down the ladder. Mary rambles on for a bit about not leaving so she can be close to her husband. You can tell this film isn’t really grabbing my attention can’t you? And there’s still a lame twist and a turn into Silence Of The Lambs territory to go. Le sigh.
The Draw For The Year’s Secret Santa Was Always Fraught With Tension.
Peter persuades Sam they should leave. The worlds must uninspiring sex scene occurs. Jimmy listens in and cries. And probably masturbates some more as well. The next morning the dog is dead. Everyone blames Jimmy. Because he does seem pretty mental. As he buries the dog he challenges Sam to prove that he isn’t a stupid crazy kid. Well that’s kind of your job like Jimmy. Stop acting stupid and crazy would be a good place to start. Peter is keen to leave but Sam still thinks the building is hiding something. Jimmy comes over to apologise and give her a present, another of Malestrazza’s books, containing the real blueprints to the property. Sam has a moment of realisation and starts to smash at the basement walls, as Malestrazza took inspiration from pyramids the building should have a hollow centre, although why she should really care about this I’m not sure. Because I sure don’t. There should be access from the roof so Jimmy goes to check that out.
Peter and Sam go to look for him but he has fallen into the weird centre of the building and can’t get out. Sam goes down to get him, with Peter on hand to hoist them both back up. Peter takes an arrow to the chest and sprays her with terrible CGI blood (is there any other kind?). She falls to the bottom and goes splat. The end? I live in hope but sadly it is still not meant to be. We continue to solider bravely on. When she comes to she is naked and bloody and being stared at by a guy. It’s the architect of the house, Malestrazza, who is still alive. Quelle surprise. Living like that for 15 years has obviously sent him mad. Actually he was very likely already mad. Can’t really pass off a penchant for burying people alive in cement in order to feed a house death energy as a mere personality quirk. She gets dressed (and she was naked in the first place for why?) and Jimmy, who killed Peter and used a voice recording of his voice to lure Sam down to ‘rescue’ him, appears and throws a note down to her. Basically his plan is that if he keeps her down there long enough eventually she’ll get Stockholm Syndrome and declare her undying love for him. Well, that one hasn’t failed me yet so good luck to him.
Malestrazza looks fucking good considering he’s been living in the dark in a tiny room for 15 years, he’s only got about 7 days facial hair growth. Sam refuses to take the hint that Peter is dead. In his on-going quest to make Sam love him Jimmy forces her and Malestrazza to dance, then kiss. All this is highly derivative of much, much better films and features ideas directly lifted from them; Silence of the Lambs (lowering a basket into the pit), Misery (Obsessive fan) and Psycho (odd Mummy’s boy) and it’s meant to be unnerving, but it is just way too poorly executed.
Sam decides to take one for the team (which only includes her I guess) and tries to seduce Jimmy. She shows him her tits and everything. When this doesn’t work she instead MacGyver’s the fuck out of the door leading to the basement by making her own dynamite but is distracted when the rain reveals the body of Peter. She couldn’t have really still thought he was alive could she? Mary is, of course, all about the keeping of crazed architects in the centre of death buildings. She swapped Johnny’s the main suspect dental records (how the fuck would she get those?) for Malestrazza’s, fooling the police into thinking he was dead. Flawless plan that, as long as one doesn’t think about it for more than 2 seconds. Sam’s homemade dynamite doesn’t work. Malestrazza rants on about how only he and the Egyptians were ever any cop at making buildings. The dynamite alerts Mary who discovers her son’s secret captive. She is most unimpressed, but doesn’t release Sam.
Sam’s Father and his team show up to level the building, because Jimmy sent the paperwork that Sam prepared, because…who the fuck cares? Let’s just get through the next 8 minutes so I can go and watch something more interesting, like paint drying. Sam tries pleading for her life one last time but to no avail. Malestrazza says he has a plan; he promptly punches her in the face, I like this plan already. The guys start demolishing the house. Malestrazza digs a grave, muttering about how apparently the victim must suffer. Could just show them this film on an endless loop. Sam manages to get free and grab a sharp pointy thing. She sneaks up on Malestrazza as he finishes digging. He wants Sam to kill him to complete the ritual; he must sacrifice himself to save her. She dithers a bit then the ghost child voices encourage her on to stab him up. That done, he lies back in his grave and lets the (still factory fresh, after 15 years by the way) cement do its job. The building is about to blow, but Sam tries again to contact Jimmy. Which she does telepathically I think, as Jimmy doesn’t have his walkie talkie. Jimmy runs to save her, stopping the countdown to the building exploding. Sam’s dad and the others find her. All Jimmy can think of to say is ‘I’m sorry’, like he just realised that what he’s been doing might be construed as a tad wrong and a little bit murdery, then he jumps to his death.
It’s Like Romeo And Juliet. If Romeo Was A Mini Ed Gein.
Sam’s voiceover one last time, in case there are any audience members left still awake. Malestrazza built 27 buildings, and they are all still standing. This one was his masterpiece; there are now no plans to demolish it. But they should, because it is a fucking eyesore, much like this film in fact.
Slight rush to get to the end there. But I was just so bored! (I know, not so much First World Problems as No World Problems). I understand this was based on a French graphic novel, which the film gives me no cause to seek out and read, so I can’t comment on the faithfulness of the adaptation. The script gives more time to Jimmy’s obsession with Sam than the horrors of the idea of being buried alive in cement and the Egyptian origins of the practice (whether historically accurate or not), which could have made an interesting horror film, given a good script, which this is not. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters, most of whose lines were delivered in the same flat monotone, as mentioned, which made by scenery chewing turn by Malestrazza when he pops up at the end even more ridiculous. Bar the first few minutes, with the little girl Julie, there is no tension or scares, just increasingly bigger eyerolls as it slowly plods along towards it’s uninvolving climax, which I guess makes it a little like this review.