Evan (Seann William Scott) is a social worker at a high school. He’s also a family man with a wife, Lauren (Mariela Garriga), and a young baby, Andrew, whom his mother Marie (Dale Dickey) moves in to help with. But Evan has a dark side: a la Dexter, he kidnaps less-than-moral dudes (in this case, the abusive relatives of his teenage clients) and tortures them before killing them. His compulsion begins to get the better of him, and Evan’s stable facade begins to slip.
I had heard about this movie months ago, and wrote a little news story on how it needed more hype. After the opening, which features full-frontal nudity and throat-slashing in a shower, I was regretting my decision. There’s enough of that kind of violent misogyny in movies already. But then it cuts to Evan in bed with Lauren; when Andrew starts crying, Evan reassures her that she can go back to sleep. Now that’s a hardcore dad–he’s exhausted from a killing spree but will still tackle middle-of-the-night feedings. As he coos to Andrew, “I will never judge you. And I will never leave you.”
Evan proves himself to be a kind and compassionate counselor (when he’s actually talking to the students, not just the murder part). Scott is actually a great dramatic actor (I don’t know why I’m surprised, because I never thought he was very funny). The filmmakers do a good job of making him sympathetic. We meet Evan’s client Ray (Sean H. Scully), who gets beaten to a pulp saving his little brother from their father’s wrath. When Evan drives off with the man for his comeuppance, he goes on a racist diatribe against immigrants, slurs and all.
Okay, I was even a little satisfied by the dispatching of the nurse (Christie Herring) from the beginning, since later in the movie she’s established as consistently rude and condescending. Her scenes reminded me of when I had my first baby. Newborns eat on average every three hours, around the clock. When my daughter took an unprecedented five-hour nap, I let her sleep. A nurse berated me for not waking her up to feed her. I was a brand new mom, insecure and exhausted, and before long I was bawling and feeling like a horrible person. (Another kid later, I am secure in the knowledge that when a baby is hungry, he or she will damn well let you know.) In the movie, Andrew has trouble with nursing, and Lauren is upset and feeling ineffective as a mother. The nurse snaps, “You’re not doing it right!” and twists Andrew’s head roughly to Lauren’s breast, admonishing her that if Andrew doesn’t start eating more, he’ll be malnourished and the hospital will have to step in. Seriously, no one will be sorry–or surprised–when Mean Nurse gets it.
It’s more of a thriller than horror, but there are a couple of unexpectedly gory moments, like multiple closeups (director Henry Jacobson is big on closeups in general) of Andrew coming out of Lauren’s woofie. Or the scene when one of Evan’s stressed-out students tears a piece of loose skin from her finger. So it’s surprising that the torture/murder scenes are repetitive and kinda boring in contrast. Overall, it’s not scary and not particularly suspenseful; a passing examination of the principal players’ characteristics will tell you what actions they’re gonna take. However, the characters are still fascinating and the actors are magnificent–go ahead and give it a look.