"Captivity" isn't a very good movie, but it is a bizarre movie.
Within about the first five minutes, Elisha Cuthbert, a famous model/actress, is drugged in a bar to the strains of the scariest music ever set to a horror movie: Selena. Cuthbert wakes up in a grungy dungeon, and anyone who's watched a horror movie in the last five years can guess what that means. Some crazy killer thinks she's a bad person and needs to be taught a lesson that, like everything else in life, can best be explained through graphic, senseless torture.
And that's pretty much what happens for a really long time, except there doesn't appear to be any lesson in it at all -- other than torture sucks. Eventually, she finds Daniel Gillies is also locked up in the dungeon. Then they suffer together for a while as they try to escape the hooded, silent maniac who's captured them.
Until -- get this -- there's a twist!
And that's really all that can be said about the plot without giving away the "surprise." Girl gets captured, girl gets brutalized, girl meets some dude who is also brutalized.
The movie can't explain why she was chosen without tipping the curveball it's going to throw in the third act, but apparently the writer wasn't concerned about the risk of it being boring and arbitrary for its entire first hour, because who cares about a trivial detail like why any of this is happening in the first place when we get to see a sexy chick get force-fed the blendered remnants of someone's face?
"Captivity's" senseless violence isn't what really bothers me, though. If there were a TV channel that showed nothing but cars exploding, all the battle scenes from "Lord of the Rings," and ninjas fighting samurai to settle once and for all who's the deadliest, I would spend a lot of time watching that channel. Honestly, I would think there's something wrong with you if you didn't.
"Captivity's" real problem is you just know there must be some reason the crazy person is hurting Cuthbert other than that he's crazy. The movie owes way too much to "Saw" for its psycho to not be the same brand of fiendish ultra-genius. (Though I guess any serial killer who can afford all these torture palaces and high-tech pain-widgets must be a pretty smart guy to begin with.)
But when that reason shows up, it's pretty awful. It's so clumsy, in fact, it's clearly nothing more than a brief setup for the twist that comes a few minutes later.
Surprise endings are only any good if the story that came before them would have worked on its own. There's plenty of trash to be talked about "Saw," but at least that movie had a sense of suspense and internal logic. We knew why the victims were chosen and what they'd have to do to escape.
"Saw's" twist might have been a little silly, but there was still plenty to keep you involved in the plot before it showed up and turned things on its ear. "Scream" and "The Sixth Sense," the two movies that probably started this recent trend, were great because they were already so tense that the twist just kicked things up to a whole nother level.
"Captivity's" the first movie I can remember seeing where the writer obviously came up with a big surprise, then couldn't think up anything interesting to carry the story up to that point, so he figured gruesome violence would do the trick just as well. Instead it's just plain dull.
I'd like to hope it'll serve as a warning to screenwriters everywhere that you need something more than a twist to make a movie work. If that ever happens, it'll come as a much bigger shock than anything this one's got to offer.