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IN SHORT: Squirm 'til it's over. It's a good thing <g>. [Rated R for some prolonged sequences of strong gruesome violence, and language. 106 minutes]
Cranky walked in to the screening of Untraceable, in which a killer streams his kills over a website page, mentally sharpening knives to take it down. Our attitude was all due to an early teevee ad in which star Diane Lane has a bit of dialog which goes something like: "He's on the Internet. It's untraceable!" and, having been writing on the Internet and its online predecessors for a dozen years, we know there is virtually that cannot be traced. Then again, since we're so hard nosed about not comparing to Source Material, the other side of our brain was working on a way to circumvent the system. What we came up with isn't far off from the technospeak explanation in the film, so we let it go. By the time it was done, we were squirming in our seat. Not from boredom but from suspense. Those who think scary flicks don't work without gore galore won't find plunging knives and flying body parts in Untraceable. What killings there are are creative enough, thank you very much, and the whole megilla is a pretty fine sit.
Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) works nights in the Portland OR office of the FBI, hunting online criminals with partner Griffen Dowd (Colin Hanks). She works nights not because that's when the pervs come out -- on the 'net they're out 24/7 -- but because her husband died in the line of duty and her 8-year old daughter Annie (Perla Haney-Jardine), watched over by Marsh's mom Stella (Mary Beth Hurt) likes to have mommy walk her to school in the morning. Aw, sweet.
Then something new appears on the computer screens of the FBI perv squad. A new website called killwithme.com whose initial offering lets a starving, kidnapped kitty run across a room to an eagerly awaited dish of cream. Everybody go "awww" at the charitable gesture. One problem, though. To get to the cream the kitty must cross an ultra sticky "humane" rat catching pad. From this point on, all viewers of killwithme.com get to watch the kitty starve to death. Once its dead, the site shuts off. The viewers think it's a gimmick, but they spread the word on message boards and thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, flock to the site to have a look.
That's sorta kinda the point. THe next time the site goes live, the victim is not a cat. It is a human being, bound gagged and with the words "kill with me" cut into his bare chest. Not very deeply but there's an IV drip of heparin, a blood thinner that ensures that the blood keeps flowing from the victims's chest. The more who tune in to the site, the more heparin is released into the IV and the faster the vic bleeds out. As opposed to huge spurting severed arteries, this kind of bleed out is pretty perverse. And so comes the FBI to the rescue, teamed with Portland PD Homicide Detective Eric Box (Billy Burke). Or not. And so the first human dies.
Each human victim that follows is taken out in increasingly clever and revolting ways because, when you think about it as intensely as the creators of this project have, you can come up with some pretty disgusting ways to torture, bleed and kill a body; to monitor it and adjust the speed of the torture and to work the hoi polloi unwashed masses into a killing frenzy (since they still don't believe any of it is real).
As for that "Internet is Untraceable" nonsense? Our solution had a website bouncing back and forth among Russian servers -- which aren't regulated as the ones in the Western World -- mess with a couple of language changes and pop things back into unregulated servers, thus making the trace route exceptionally complicated, and kill the sap before the feds can track it down. Simple, right?
The strange part? Every ultimate kill seems to be centered in Portland. It's a diss to every cop and fed working the case as local victims fall one by one to whoever is the master sociopath. And, well, duh, sooner or later said nutcase is going to come after the agents hunting him/her/it. Welcome to the third act, keemosabe. We can say no more.
Except that by cutting back on the gruesome John Carpenter inspired slaughterhouse festivities and concentrating on ever increasing torturous slow kills, Untraceable should have you squirming in your seats. It did us.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Untraceable, he would have paid . . .
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