Back in the 90’s The Silence of the Lambs and Seven brought the serial killer film big time success. Since then the genre has been overrun by cheap knockoffs that emphasize stylized gore and perversion over quality storytelling and directing (Hostel, Saw).
Since this is the digital age, it’s now appropriate that serial killers are plying their trade over the internet, and that’s the premise of the new film Untraceable. This new killer abducts people and places them in torture devices featured on his website and as more and more people log on, the faster the torture traps work. Everyone who looks at the site becomes an accomplice to murder.
The webpage comes to the attention of Portland’s local FBI office and Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) gets wise to the website’s potential before anyone else does. Before long, Portland and the nation is swept up in internet murder hysteria. The killer is a virtual computer genius, bouncing his webpage in and out of hacked servers all over the world, covering his tracks and making his presence "untraceable."
This movie had some potential. The premise, while also a rip-off, was interesting but the film neither excites nor is it bad enough to aggravate. It’s just blah; completely blah. The idea of the internet killer has been done before (Feardotcom, The Card Player) but until it’s been done in a hit film it’s still up for grabs. The main problem is which way do you want to go?
Silence and Seven were basically police procedurals in which the horror lurks behind the scenes. Untraceable tries to equally cover the killer and the cops but succeeds at neither. We do become familiar with Diane Lane’s character and her family and this does set up the one really chilling moment in the film, but it’s not enough.
The killer is revealed early, but doesn’t carry the menace you need for the film to work. He’s kind of creepy, but in a milquetoast manner. The cops, other than Lane’s character, come off as ineffectual, cardboard cut-outs of real people that do little to distinguish themselves or make you care.
Untraceable takes the muted color scheme and gruesome deaths seen in previous films and mixes that with the detective aspects seen in the likes of Seven. The real attraction comes from the frisson of the gory deaths and this reduces it to the level of the Saw and Hostel franchises. Do we really need more of that? It’s gory, but not as gory so then it becomes a watered down version of every film from which it draws inspiration.
In addition, people do stupid things in this movie that really make no sense and I cannot forgive that. Most people have seen a serial killer movie and would know enough not to do the senselessly stupid things done in this film. Not to spoil it for you but, would you really get back in the car? Come on now.
If you’re ever stuck on the Broadway Bridge, just know that you can run for 5 minutes back to Union Station and hopefully find a cop or at least a cab. Surely the killer wouldn’t risk attacking you there. I have to mention one more thing. The very last shot of the movie is so completely over the top I actually laughed. It was easily one of the cheesiest things I’ve seen in a long time.
The one real reason to see this movie is Portland. We love Portland. We love the Broadway Bridge. We love that traffic snarl at the Rose Garden as you merge from I-5 to I-84. We love the old homes in the Hawthorne and Laurelhurst districts. It all looks so good on film. Unlike The Hunted, there are no scenes where the Willamette River later turns into rapids. The city’s geography is portrayed realistically and that’s great.
Untraceable isn’t a totally bad movie, but it isn’t very good and I really can’t recommend it. If you do decide to go, perhaps it’ll encourage more people to shoot their films here and pump money into the economy. That’s a good thing. Let’s just hope that some better movies are shot here. Oh, one more thing. If you ever get an e-mail from a guy telling you he has free Winterhawk tickets for you, don’t meet him in a dark parking lot.
2.5 out of 5