The Factory – film review
Dark Castle Entertainment
Directed by Morgan O’Neil
Reviewed by Anthony C. Francis
In 1986 Michael Mann brought to the screen what was to become my favorite serial killer film, Manhunter. In my opinion, that film cornered the market on the “police catching a serial killer film”. It excelled in style and originality. I felt there would never be another great film of that genre.
Then, in 1995, came David Fincher’s Seven, a film that rewrote the serial killer idea and became an enormous success with both audiences and critics. It was completely original, finding a new and very creative slant for that style of film, and quickly became my number two favorite film of the genre.
After Seven’s success, the cinemas were flooded with films about dogged policemen and women chasing serial killers. Some were okay but most were forgettable. This film, while not perfect nor wholly original, is one hell of a thriller sprinkled with elements of solid horror.
The Factory is a new film about a homicide detective, played by John Cusack, who is trying to find a killer of prostitutes. The case is two years old and the bodies of two missing prostitutes who are feared dead have never been found. The killer has received the moniker, “The Snow Killer”, as he preys on women during the snowy winters in Buffalo, New York. Cusack’s character is doing everything he can to stop the department from shutting the case down as all leads have gone cold. The anchor for the whole film is, in fact, Cusack who turns in one of his better performances. It is a dark role of an obsessed man at his wit’s end, and Cusack delivers nicely. He plays the role wire tight and is completely believable as he thinks of nothing but piecing together clue after clue to relentlessly pursue the killer, even at the risk of alienating his family.
The plot thickens immensely as Cusack’s teenage daughter, played by Mae Whitman, a good young actress recently seen in TV’s Parenthood, goes missing after sneaking out of her house because of a fight with her mother. The arc of Whitman’s character is very interesting and exciting and adds to the tension in the film.
Cusack has a partner, nicely played by Jennifer Carpenter. Her performance is the polar opposite from her character on Dexter. Here Carpenter is soft spoken and tries to be the voice of reason to her ever obsessive partner, while suppressing her own personal issues.
This film, as do the better films of the genre, gives us multiple vantage points as we get to meet the killer, Carl, almost immediately. He is nicely played by the character actor Dallas Roberts, who can currently be seen on AMC’s The Walking Dead. He is very good here playing the textbook sociopath with a more mellow spin. The part could have had him go “off the rails” but Roberts shows restraint. He is marvelous in an opening sequence where he thinks he has picked up a female prostitute but in actuality has taken in a pre-op transsexual. The myriad of emotions that run over Robert’s face when he finds out the truth is fascinating to watch.
Carl is actually keeping the women he abducts for reasons that I cannot disclose. The “factory” of the title is a very novel idea. I can’t tell you what it is but I can say that once we discover its purpose, situations become dire.
The film is directed by Morgan O’ Neil, an Australian actor who is trying his hand at directing. He is off to a solid start with this film. He creates a nice atmosphere with the dark, snowy streets of Buffalo and keeps the characters surrounded in darkness in one way or another. The scenes in the killer’s basement where he “interacts” with his prey are nicely lit and give his lair the proper creepy feel.
The film unfolds nicely, winding its way towards a shocking finale that is completely out of left field but believable and utterly original. It is a great twist and one that I did not see it coming. I believe it will be a surprise to even the most seasoned horror fans.
So many horror or thriller films seem to need the twist ending. This all started, I suspect, with the success of M. Night Shamaylan’s The Sixth Sense. Most films that use the twist ending are using it as a gimmick. Here, the twist is well thought out and executed slyly. It is a twist that works.
Warner Bros. was to release this film theatrically in 2011 and it was filmed in late 2010. I do not know, nor do I understand, the reasoning for releasing it straight to video. There are not enough good horror films out there and this could have, perhaps, made a small profit. Horror fans love a good serial killer film and it has been quite a while since we have had one.
The Factory is a rich serial killer film full of momentum, as it does not waste time. Of this genre, this film is one of the best in quite a while. I realize that it is nothing new, save for the twist, but it has many merits. It has a robust and talented cast, a well written story, and some solid horror. Never groundbreaking but consistently interesting, it manages to give horror/thriller fans what they crave.