MOVIE: A Perfect Getaway (2009)

aperfectgetawayBased on the previews I saw of this flick, I was expecting it to be a really, really bad horror movie.  So, naturally, I’ve been dying to see it for weeks. It finally opened last Friday, to a cavalcade of surprisingly sort-of-positive reviews, something that completely threw me for a loop.  I mean, wait, what do you mean it “has its moments” and “does an entertaining job of playing with thriller conventions,” Seattle Times?  What are you trying to do, Entertainment Weekly, by giving this movie a B-, which is only 10 points away from an A-, if I remember my math correctly?

By the time I got to the theater the next morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect at all, which is never a good state for me when it comes to movies like this.  The moment I start toying with the idea that it might not suck, it’s all over.  It’ll suck for SURE then, and I won’t be able to enjoy its suckage because I will have gotten my hopes all up in its grill, so to speak.   I mean, this movie IS supposed to suck, right?  So, why is everybody saying it’s not that sucky?


Making matters worse, once I got to the theater things only got wonkier.  At first, I thought it might be a good (meaning bad, meaning good-bad) sign when the ticket-selling lady hadn’t even heard of it.  She had to check the sign behind her to see what the hell I was talking about — awesome!  That must mean it’s really bad, right?  Yes!

But then the popcorn guy was all, “OMG!  I saw that last night and it was really good!”   Huh?

And then, the ads, the previews, and finally the opening credits began to roll and I was still completely alone in the theater!  That HAS to mean it’s really, REALLY bad, right?  I mean, granted, it was the 10:20am Saturday show.  But still.  Clearly, this movie is going to SUCK, I thought to myself.  Opening weekend and I’m the only one in the theater?  Bring it on, David Twohy, for I am ready to experience the awesome sucktitude of YOUR MOVIE.

About ten minutes in, though, it all started to make sense.  For some reason, the preview I’d seen had been trying to bill A Perfect Getaway as a horror movie  — the flying axe, the couple lost in the woods, the newspaper clippings about a gory murder, etc.  Essentially, the preview that’s circulating for this film is making it look like every other stupid horror flick ever made.  No wonder nobody turned out for it — yawn, right?

But you know what?  This isn’t a horror movie at all.  Instead, it’s a pretty satisfyingly entertaining and engrossing little thriller, with some surprisingly decent acting at the helm.  (In fact, Timothy Olyphant was so good in this movie — and clearly having so much fun making it, too, which I love to see  — that it only took me about fourteen seconds to stop fixating on his freakish teeth.  Heads up, Christian Bale — you could learn a few tricks from this guy.)

The story opens with a young couple, Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla  Jovovich) who are on their honeymoon in Hawaii. Instead of the usual resort and relaxation stuff, they’ve decided to hop a flight to Kauai and hike out to its uninhabited western coast.  Along the way, they encounter two other young couples:  Kale and Cleo (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton) and  Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez, who is ridiculously gorgeous, wow).

Cliff and Cydney don’t hit it off too well with Kale and Cleo —  in fact, Kale scares the crap out of them, so they try to keep their distance.  But Nick and Gina seem nice and normal (until that goat shows up, anyway), so the two couples decide to join forces for the rest of the hike.  Then the news hits — they run into a group of girls on the trail who relay a rumor about the brutal slaying of another young couple  in Honolulu.  The suspects?  A man and a woman, who authorities fear have most likely fled to one of the other islands.

And with that, you can see exactly where the movie is headed right?  Our intrepid heroes, Cliff and Cydney, have now made the acquaintance of two other couples, both of whom are slightly “off” in some way or another.  Kale is downright aggressive, so he and Cleo are the obvious first suspects.  But Nick — Nick is a little bit strange too.  And it doesn’t help that he’s an ex-Army special forces guy who carries a big knife named “Gilligan” (“my little buddy”) strapped to his ankle.

Right away you know one of these couples is going to end up being the killers.  And, if you’re savvy, you’ll pick the right one about 40 minutes in (as I did, though I’m happy to say I wasn’t completely sure I was right until the very last minute, which is awesome).

Here’s the thing I really liked about this film, though — I didn’t actually care that much who the killers were until I was forced to when their identities were revealed and the chase scenes and shootin’ began.  For most of the first 2/3rds of this movie, I was so enjoying the dynamic between the characters, as well as the gorgeous scenery and the occasional comedic riff, that the thriller part was almost more an afterthought.  Yes, it added some nice moments of tension every now and again.  But there’s nothing “horror flick” about this film.  No obnoxious “Boo!!” moments, no gore (well, okay, some at the end), no stupid over-exposition (well, okay, some at the end), no chase scenes involving really stupid women screaming and running with their boobs a’flappin’, etc.

The ending has an overly long black and white scene/flashback that attempts to explain the killers’ motivations — that part was stupid and mostly unnecessary, and definitely guilty of over-exposition, one of my biggest pet peeves in a movie.  But after that scene ends and we head back to the woods to watch what will happen now that the good guys have finally figured out who the bad guys are, the chase and fight scenes that ensue are actually pretty damn satisfying, I have to say.  I couldn’t be sure until the last minute who was going to end up dead, and, what’s more, I actually cared!

In fact, I even found myself rooting for the good guys, further evidence this is not a horror movie — by the end of a bad horror flick, I am almost always rooting for the sociopath to win.  Especially if there are chase scenes with flapping boobs, as there almost always are.  (Ladies!  Undergarments, please!)

All in all, I had a really great time watching this movie.  Though, had I known I’d have a huge theater all to myself, I would’ve stayed in my pajamas.  Note to self.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]


5 Responses to “MOVIE: A Perfect Getaway (2009)”

  1. Trip Says:

    Sounds like it’s a summer of sleepers. I’m told Orphan is one of the best freakfests to come down the pike in a long time as well.

  2. megwood Says:

    Really? I had been intrigued by Orphan until I saw the preview, and then I dismissed it because it looked like every other “bad seed” flick ever made. Perhaps I should reconsider. Anybody seen that one?

  3. Liz Says:

    I was afraid “Orphan” was going to be another “Damien,” which I never liked much. Now I think I’ll reconsider, too.

    I have been so burned by movies that were misrepresented either by their trailers and/or packaging. The one that hurt the most was called, I think, “Cold Creek Manor,” and starred, I think, Sharon Stone. It was the one about the house where the original owner hadn’t given it up, and it was made to look like a rather interesting ghost story. No such luck! I also think “The Village” suffered from misdirected expectations – but M. Night got so weird – so quickly – that I’m not sure!

  4. Trip Says:

    Watched this one over the Xmas break, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised…doubly so, since David Twohy is also responsible for The Arrival and Pitch Black, two *sci-fi* B-movies that I also enjoyed immensely. I was surprised to see his name here…

    The cast was outstanding, and although I was pretty sure who the baddies would turn out to be, it took much longer than usual to pick out, and for once I was loving that ambiguity.

    On a side note, between this and that one scene in The Bourne Identity, the ongoing cinematic trend where characters must slowly extract pointy things from under their skin really gives me the heebies.

  5. megwood Says:

    Oh huh, I didn’t realize this was a David Twohy project. No wonder! (Big fan of both those others as well, naturally.)

    Totally agreed on the bad guy pickin’ — that was one thing I appreciated about it too. I was guessing a lot longer than usual and I was satisfied instead of annoyed when the big reveal finally happened. Saw this one again about three or four weeks ago just to see if it still held up under a second viewing — happy to report it did! Just plain fun.

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