March 16, 2018 Caged (Movie Review)
Directed by Nicholas Winter (Lost A Girl 2015, Undercover Hooligan 2016), Caged, set for release on DVD on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, through MTI Home Video, stars Whit Kunschik (In Me short 2016, Lies series) and Sam Newman (Doctors series, Casualty series) in a tense exploration of two killers on a collision course with one another.
Caged does not end anything like it begins, and it does not begin anything like it ends. If this is at all confusing, it is meant as praise; what starts as a seemingly routine walk in the low-budget torture porn subgenre morphs and shifts into something else entirely as it progresses, becoming the perfect example of a film comprehensively elevated by real, earnest ambition.
In fact, Caged often seems like it is in a state of total metamorphosis and is all the better for it. It gleefully flaunts its own narrative rules, telling a story that is bigger and wider than it first implies, and doing so with enough verve and confidence to keep the audience engaged throughout. This is much, much more interesting than a glut of similar Horror/Slasher films coming out this year; by continually reinventing itself, the film feels like it is playing something of a game and as a result stays constantly fresh. It’s also a neat way to avoid narrative traps and cliches by simply running ahead of them.
That does not mean that this is a perfect production, however, far from it. As implied previously, the film is elevated by its ambition, yet that does not mean that such ambition is flawlessly realized. While the narrative structure and quiet, character-focused work of the film is fundamentally interesting enough to keep its audience hooked, this is a film that is certainly lacking a degree of directorial polish.
The cinematography is widely disparate: sometimes it seems just functional enough that it looks as if little thought went into it at all, while other times it manages to be genuinely impressive. Specifically, a stretch in the middle photographed within a hotel is shot extremely well, with everything from the the movement of the camera to the color correction keying us right into the director’s intent without being overt and heavy-handed. Oddly enough, it is actually the cinematography that takes place outside, in vistas that should naturally lend themselves to great visual imagery, that often does not feel like it is taking advantage of the resources in front of it.
The background music the film employs is more consistent: it lacks the life and creativity of the narrative and unfortunately does not even have the moments of excellence the cinematography enjoys. This is a real shame, as there is more than a few moments within the film that feel like they could have been a lot more impactful than they were, but they are let down by the music. To be clear, it is not merely that the scene could have been better with the right music, it is that the music chosen actively took away from the scene rather than merely not elevating it.
The writing may be interesting in broad, narrative terms but it does also unfortunately fall apart a bit at the micro level; there is a plethora of exposition within the film and a lot of it is clunky. While this is not always an issue, it is certainly a recurrent issue and it is obvious enough to draw a few eye-rolls. It is in fact exceptionally noticeable, specifically because the film has moments that feel subtly written and powerful but they are juxtaposed with characters blurting-out plot mechanics and cheesy one-liners. It’s not that the film is written consistently bad on a scene-by-scene level, it’s that the quality of the writing can vary wildly even within each individual scene.
All of that having been said, Caged lives and dies on it’s characters and its continually twisting narrative , and those are areas in which it tends to do quite well. For that, CrypticRock gives Caged 3 out of 5 stars.