I was expecting a horror film, and although A Horrible Way to Die is often terrifying, it didn’t fit in this category. It is a well-made independent thriller, which part of the time feels more like a mumblecore drama than a serial killer film. It is a portrait of insanity, and one which does not need to follow the rules of any genre in order to tell its twisted little tale. At times it may be too slow for the audience it seems most directed at, but this is a little untraditional gem. The only complaint that I have is the confusing manner in which the film is presented. I respect what the intentions were, and the changes in facial hair on a certain character are helpful, but it is often difficult to know what is going on for the first half of the film.
The film follows the escape of notorious serial killer Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen), as well as the events leading up to his capture shown through flashbacks. His former girlfriend Sarah (Amy Seimetz) is struggling to put her past behind her, at the same time facing the reality of her drinking problem. When she meets a new boyfriend (Joe Swanberg) at one of her AA meetings, Sarah slowly begins to open up again, until she hears news of Garrick’s escape.
The realism of the film is what makes it so original, actually giving personality to the monster at the center of the film instead of just making him a horrifying caricature. This may be a disappointment for slasher fans hoping to see excessive violence, but it makes for a much more mature horror film. The special features on the Blu-ray disc include an audio commentary with director/editor Adam Wingard and writer/producer Simon Barrett. There is also a behind-the-scenes featurette.