A Horrible Way to Die
Directed by Adam Wingard
You know who’s worse than serial killers? Fanboys! That’s the punch line to this one-gag thriller, in which Amy Seimetz meets-cute nice-guy Joe Swanberg at an AA meeting. She’ll eventually take her clothes off for him (though not as quickly as Greta Gerwig would have), and then involve him in a deadly situation when her serial-killer ex escapes from custody. The miserablist A Horrible Way to Die crosscuts the awkwardly blossoming romance between these two troubled types with the tastefully edited road-trip rampage of an unleashed sociopath with a large Internet following. (AJ Bowen plays this mustachioed schlub, who, in a different context, could pass for a character in a Joe Swanberg movie.) It’s mumblecore with homicidal tendencies.
But you shouldn’t assume you have a handle on where it’s headed, obvious though it may seem. (Those two narrative threads are going to intersect, right? With bloody results?) Director Wingard telegraphs writer Simon Barrett’s last-act twist with unsettling flourishes: a shaky camera, in-camera zooms, shots that slip in and out of focus, a scrambled chronology, low light, and fade-outs to black; the movie gets even spinnier and fuzzier as the story heats up. This all lends an edge of menace to the archetypal romance—after all, there is a killer afoot!—suggesting that, ostensible conventionalism aside, something is off. Things are not as mumblecore as they seem.
Opens August 19 at the reRun Gastropub Theater