DIR: Tom Shankland• WRI: • PRO: Michael Casey, Allan Niblo, James Richardson • DOP: Morten Søborg • ED: Tim Murrell • DES: Ashleigh Jeffers • CAST: Stellan Skarsgård, Melissa George, Selma Blair, Ashley Walters, Tom Hardy, Paul Kaye
‘There will be pain.’ What Waz promises, it delivers. Waz is going to be a divisive picture, people will either dismiss it as ‘torture porn’ or look at it for what it is: a smart, well-made entertaining horror-thriller that is at turns harrowing, clever and brutal. Filmed on location in New York and Belfast, location is utilized brilliantly, reflecting the characters’ interior lives – Stellan Skarsgård’s hardboiled, tormented detective, Melissa George’s emotionally scarred rookie and the maniacal glee of Selma Blair perfectly mirror the grainy cityscape.
When the body of a pregnant woman is fished out of a river with the letters ‘Waz’ carved into her stomach, Argo (Skarsgård) and squeamish rookie Westcott (Melissa George) are assigned the case. ‘Waz’ is part of an equation that proves there is no such thing as altruism in nature. The killer is coercing people into torturing their loved ones to death. When Westcott discovers a former case was thrown out of court, she realises that Argo and the killer share a deadly secret.
Waz is the directorial debut of writer Clive Bradley and director Tom Shankland and one of the most interesting and thought-provoking films of the year. Could you butcher a loved one? Selma Blair seethes pure hatred, but Melissa George is unfortunately given very little to do, which is a shame because her character is intriguing. Skarsgård is the real gem of the film and he shines (or bleeds profusely) in the film’s nihilistic denouement.
The film has moderately good direction, excellent camera-work and it will be interesting to see where this director goes next. But be warned, this film is at times excruciating to watch.
Waz works because it seems to be quite straightforward; the killer showing up thirty minutes into the film, the noirish story-specifics which lead you to believe that you know where the writer is taking you only for you to stand on a plot landmine which detonates in your face. A unique indie horror/thriller, if only other horror writers and directors would take note, perhaps we could occasionally be given horror with a mind (and a heart) behind it.