Thursday, January 7, 2010

'The Traveler' is a good movie I'll never watch again

The Traveler (2006)
Starring: Jonathan R. Skocik, Shawn Burke, Melanie D'Alessandro, and Megan Hartley
Director: Jonathan R. Skocik
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Seven people are trapped in an abanonded house by a supernatural force, and an immortal man with monstrous strength (Burke) soon appears and forces them to torture each other to death. But he is keeping his most special, most terrble plans in reserve for young married couple Alan and Suzan (Skocik and D'Allesandro (with Hartely providing the voice of Suzan).

Once in a blue moon, I come upon a film that I can say is fairly decent, but that I will still never watch again and that I am hesitant to recomment to anyone else.

"The Traveler" is one such movie.

I have never seen violence this graphic and terrible in a movie before. I'm the first one to admit that I'm a bit squemish when it comes to slasher-flicks and torture scenes--I know the reality of severe pain, so I can't stand watching it staged on-screen, and you'd probably laugh if you saw me squirm and look away while viewing many movies--but it's rare where I am shuttling past extended sequences because they are making my skin crawl and because they are just too horrible to watch.

"The Traveler" features six such terrible, extended, extremely graphic scenes. And the violence mostly looks horribally realistic--only once did I think "that looks fake"... but that could just have been because I was zooming past the guts spilling out from one of the characters at x4 speed.

I did watch snippits of each of the death sequences (yeah... most everyone in the house dies most terrible, anquishing deaths, and I don't consider that a spoiler in the day and age of "Saw" and the various imitators, of which this is one). The violence looks horribly realistic and the well done sound effects make it even more stomach-turningly believable. The best (or most horrible) torture sequences were the one where the "host" takes a spike and a hammer and shatters a victim's teeth one by one--and we get a top view so we can see it happen-- the one where another victim gets hoisted into the air on a meathook that penetrates the roof of the mouth and exits through an eye-socket, and the one where a victim's face is literally shaved off.

Despite my revulsion at the graphic violence, despite the fact that I will never consider watching this movie again, I admire the technical know-how that went into creating it.

This is a well-made film over-all. There are a few clunkly moments here and there--tinny dialogue, flat acting, a special effect here and there that don't come off quite right--but overall it features decent camerawork and staging, it's free of all the padding and time-filling garbage that ruins so many horror movies, and it even offering a story that's interesting and engaging,

What's more, the director has the ability to honestly assess what worked and what didn't work in the movie; the camera lingered on the gore and special effects that worked with terrible convincingness, while those that clearly didn't work as I'm sure was hoped are passed by with fairly quick cuts. (There's a "regenerating head" sequence that I think fits this bill.) Too often, low-budget filmmakers allow the audience to see their film's shortcomings too clearly by dwelling on them. Not so with Skocik... he's clearly a filmmaker with a good eye, and I'd be interested in seeing what he might come up with in the future (even if I have to shuttle past portions of the movie).

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