Fifty years ago Yale University professor Stanley Milgram held a series of social experiments based on Nazi war criminals’ psychology. They were devised to answer a simple question: how far are people willing to go when instructed by authority? Nick, his girlfriend Tayler and their two best friends are about to find out. Abducted after a camping trip, they wake up in an unknown prison with two vials wired into the base of their skulls. They are not alone: another four people are in the same nightmarish predicament. Their task, set by a mysterious video figure, is to fill the vials with chemicals the brain produces when in extreme pain. Who will become leader of the pack and who will be first to suffer the excruciating agonies they must devise within the 22-hour time limit?
“Vile” provides the perfect introductory term for what you are about to see. Coming into this film, I reframed from reading any synopsis with no preconceptions about what they meant by the title. I assumed some kind of torture p*rn release especially with its SAW-like cover (featuring pliers and a broken tooth).
I became more excited when I found out pretty quickly that this was another one of those “isolation” films we love so much. You know the drill by now, a room full of strangers who happened to be locked away without their consent. This usually is set up in the name of experimentation, but in this case, was a bit more selfish than that.
“Vile” begins as 4 friends (2 couples – Nick (Eric Jay Beck and Taylor (April Matson) | Tony (Akeem Smith) and Kai (Elisha Skorman)) are enjoying their camping trip. They stop for gas and are quickly approached by a pretty young woman needing a ride to her stranded car. Fair enough, I think most would oblige. However when she returns with a gas mask, they soon find themselves trapped (and kidnapped) in a undisclosed location with a group of strangers. It isn’t long before they all have a chance to enjoy the video provided for them. Scary horror veteran Maria Olsen (character unnamed) appears prerecorded to tell them they are on a 22 hour timer and must inflict pain upon themselves to reach 100%. The pain produces a chemical from their brain that is fed into a device they all of forced to wear. This creates a drug that is highly desirable (high cost) and the root of the whole ordeal. If they can hit the 100% collectively, they will all be set free. Or in other words, the premise for the film has been set….so get ready for a ride of nasty self infliction.
After agreeing to share the percentage, they agree that they’ll subject themselves to being tied down while the others torture them to a 14% level increase (or something of that nature).
The interesting thing about this whole story is that they are always faced with making the choice of taking on the pain to save the group (and themselves). So unlike other films (well maybe except for some of the SAW routines), they must endure while the others torture them to a percentage. We get to see a bit of the handy work being done (bashing in kneecaps, pulling nails with pliers…) though after a few participating sessions, we pretty much get the gist that the volunteers are not enjoying their choices very much.
Things begin to really heat up. While “some” are more than brave to take on the challenge, a few of the women begin to “lose it” over what’s coming next. It’s pretty much a game of pain and release. We manage to get quite the torture p*rn experience with a breath of humanity attached to it. We also learn more about the drug and less about the organization that orchestrated this.
Director Taylor Sheridan brings us a solid piece that simply “works” for fans of this style genre. Tense, emotional, and gut wrenching, we do experience deeds of vile proportion without the need for a antagonistic perpetrator. From what I can tell, this is Sheridan’s first horror film, though you wouldn’t have guessed. “Vile” plays out as powerful as any genre film on the market
The film is cleverly designed so that we develop compassion for those deserving and despise those who are more content in their selfishness. Tara (Maya Hazen) is one of the group who quickly becomes a villain even though she is in the exact same predicament as the rest of them. When they finally get to repay her for her rampant mouth and lack of compassion (for the rest of them), lets just say it’s an odd culmination of sweet justice. April Matson as “Taylor” provides the film’s strongest effort as both victim and empowered survivalist.
The film wraps up its story with a few surprise but leaves room for more of these to follow. I found that the extras actually include a few scenes that help with the story. You may not like the feeling you get from this film, but you can’t deny it has impact. I think fans will eat those up making it a great choice for new releases this year to take a chance on.