Red Eye

There was a time when Wes Craven was considered one of the titans of horror. He had a string of smaller hits in the 70s, directed one of the biggest horror flicks of all time in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and reinvented the genre in the late 90s with the Scream trilogy. But what has he done for us lately? Not much, unfortunately. He inexplicably directed Music of the Heart, that crappy music-teacher-makes-kids-good movie, and then returned to horror earlier this year with Cursed. Now, I haven’t seen that one yet, but I have yet to hear a good review of it. So Craven makes what is being called a “stylistic turn” and brings us a thriller in Red Eye.

The premise is interesting, if a little exploitative in this post-9/11 world. You know, girl meets boy, boy turns out to be psycho killer, and proceeds to terrorize her on the titular flight. Red Eye plays on America’s newest, deepest fear: aeroclaustrophobia. I think I actually just made that word up, but you know what I mean. People are terrified that another hijacking could happen on their flight or worse yet, that they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. Passenger Rachel McAdams finds herself in such a scenario, as the random guy she chatted with before the flight at the airport bar, one Cillian Murphy, well, turns out he’s not just some stranger. See, he’s lined up an assassin to kill her father, unless she moves as important politico to another room at the hotel she manages, so that he can be easily assassinated. She must choose, Last Crusade style.

Craven can be a master of suspense, and Red Eye does have its share of looming dread, but I never really felt that tension you get from a really good thriller. Perhaps because Murphy is so coolly charismatic as her tormentor, that I found myself hoping he would be triumphant. Cillian Murphy has quickly become one of my must-see actors, meaning I will see anything that he’s in. That’s a pretty short list for me. Even though he essentially plays the same character in Red Eye that he did in Batman Begins, as Jackson Rippner (lame, I know) he provides flirtatious menace in a manner not seen since DeNiro in Cape Fear. Unfortunately, the third act insanity in Batman is carried over to Red Eye, as Murphy devolves from know-it-all mastermind to psycho killer. The climax of the film could have been lifted verbatim from any of Craven’s horror flicks, including the clichés of running up the stairs, breaking a vase on the villains head, and people recovering almost instantly from grievous injuries.

Red Eye is a bit of a departure for Craven, emphasis on bit. He tries to work his slasher formula into everyday life, but the plot twists just had me shaking my head in disbelief. I can’t fault the stars, or Craven for that matter, for the mediocrity of this film. It is what it is. With a bit more thought into the screenplay, and a less formulaic ending, though, Red Eye could have been a great thriller. As is, it gets a C+ .


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