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Anamorph poster


cast: Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Peter Stormare, Clea DuVall, and Deborah Harry

director: Henry Miller

103 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
E1 DVD Region 2 retail
[released 27 July]

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Mark West
Stan Aubray (Willem Dafoe) is a detective in New York, who lectures on crime scenes and appears to suffer from OCD. Promoted to detective on the back of a serial killer case - the 'Uncle Eddie' murders - where he could perhaps have saved the last victim but didn't, Aubray is slowly retreating into himself, whilst apparently trying to drink himself to death. More murders occur in the city, which everyone seems to link to the Uncle Eddie spree - though I couldn't see it myself, he wrote 'dead where I found him/her' on their bodies, the new killer creates very elaborate art installations of death - and Aubray finds himself drawn into it.

Partnered with Detective Uffner (Scott Speedman) and discussing the case with Blair Collet (Peter Stormare), Aubray's art-dealer friend (who knows a lot about the case and police procedures), Aubray is dragged in and the killer seems to be enjoying himself, sending the detective clues and taunting him on the phone. There's also Sandy (Clea DuVall), who Aubray meets and appears to sponsor, who was the friend of the final Uncle Eddie victim. She sends Aubray a photograph of her trip away, which provides the final clue to the killer.

This is a dark film, both in tone and look. Shot in an almost deserted New York, making excellent use of winter light and grimy locations, this almost feels like a film from the 1970s (more so because of Dafoe's very peculiar haircut) and owes quite a debt to Se7en in terms of production design and gore. Dafoe, as usual, is very good but everyone else seems to get credited way above their screen-time (especially Debbie Harry, prominently billed, she's in it for about 10 seconds as a neighbour - I kept expecting her to turn out to be the killer).

Through various machinations, Aubray realises that the killer is using an anamorph painting system (this is explained in the film, but I had to read up on it before I wrote this), where perspective changes dramatically what you're looking at. I'm not entirely sure why they chose this as the title, but hey, nobody asked me.

There's a very well-staged foot-chase, midway through the film, but that's the only action set-piece, though the staging of the murder installations is uniformly well done.

We never find out who the original Uncle Eddie killer was, or even if he was caught. This new killer first makes his appearance in the foot chase, is found to be the sponsor of Sandy at her AA meetings, but we have no idea who he is. He's onscreen for about 10 minutes, we don't know anything about him or his motives and then he gets shot. I don't mind oblique endings, at all, but I don't like to watch a thriller, get thrown a load of red herrings, only to find out that I could never have figured out who the killer was and then having him die before I understand what's going on. I mean, what was his link to Uncle Eddie, because the assumption is that it wasn't him in the first place? Why pick on Dafoe and not the other cops who brought the 'reign of terror' to an end - well, apart from the policeman who becomes an inkwell?

I like dark thrillers, I like a bit of gore and I like a good mystery. This had all of those, but tempered it with a confusing story and pointless cameos that were just distracting. If you're in the mood for a grim police procedural, this is ideal but otherwise, probably not for everyone.

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