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THE DIVIDE. Wow. Where do I even begin? Well, I have to
start with my mood going into the movie (opening in limited engagements this
Friday from Anchor Bay). It’s not often I lift the “reviewer curtain” and talk
about the fact that what is happening in my real life can occasionally tweak my
perspective. On this particular day, I was delayed leaving a press junket and
was scared I was going to be late for the DIVIDE screening.
On the way, I got in a minor fender-bender, which, though
all parties left psychically unscathed, had damaged my car and my attitude even
further. So needless to say, by the time I made it to THE DIVIDE, I was in a
pissy mood and certainly not looking forward to what I figured would be two hours
of watching a group of people go through radiation poisoning. I took my seat
just wanting this to be over so I could go home and continue on with my crappy
Two hours later, I emerged from that theater a different
person than the one who went in. I had witnessed, thought about and experienced
things that made my car, my bad day, everything all seem like bullshit. It’s a
rarity a film does this to me. I consider myself to be pretty horror-hardened,
and when a film comes along that actually makes me question my very existence
and character, it’s a major cathartic event. MARTYRS, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and
FAT GIRL created that feeling in me—I didn’t know whether to scream, cry, laugh
or some combination of them all, but I felt like I had to do something. I used
think this was a weakness I had with certain movies; I now know it is just a
demonstration of what makes me human. It also demonstrates why horror fans are
able to watch some of the most visceral, brutal and grotesque movies out there.
We can find redemption, beauty and emotional cleansing in them. I’m adding THE
DIVIDE to my personal cathartic list.
I should discuss the actual movie here at some point, but
first, one more note. When I was a kid, I was allowed to watch anything I
wanted, for the most part. My parents never stopped me from watching horror. If
anything, they encouraged it, as these films led me to read books at a very
young age on FX and how they were made. The only movies I was not allowed to
see were nuclear-holocaust stories. TESTAMENT, WHEN THE WIND BLOWS and even
that weird made-for-TV pic with Steve Guttenberg, THE DAY AFTER, were all off
limits until I was much older. After seeing a few, I couldn’t understand what
the big deal was. Yup, Trioxin turns you into a zombie, and radiation makes
your hair fall out. Movies are full of f**ked-up fears. But I know see what my
parents wanted to protect me from—they wanted to keep my young mind from being
exposed to everything that happens in THE DIVIDE.
So now, on to the details of the movie itself. THE DIVIDE
begins with multiple nuclear blasts. Seriously, the credits roll and
boom—nuclear armageddon. As the tenants of a New York City apartment building
scramble to find shelter, a small group make their way down to the basement,
where the superintendent, Mickey (played by Michael Biehn), has set up a
fallout-style shelter with supplies, lye toilet and battery-powered
electricity. A hardened fireman and 9-11 veteran, Mickey has been preparing for
armageddon for quite some time, and is quick to take control—which soon
People turn. Some try to break out, some actually make it
out, and others come in. Certain people get radiation poisoning and go insane,
while others do not. With the exception of the first few minutes of explosions,
THE DIVIDE is a two-hour descent into how quickly a handful of survivors can
create a hell far worse then the annihilation outside. Filth, cockroaches,
fetid dead bodies, illness and no showers. Insanity, abuse, moral humiliation,
rape and murder. This movie holds nothing back, and the camera never looks away
from anything, no matter how brutal.
Biehn and Lauren German both give amazing performances, but
the real standout is Rosanna Arquette. She begins the movie as a devoted
mother, but her character changes are unspeakable. I was also floored by the
performance of Michael Eklund, who makes a brilliant transition to pure
madness. The special makeup by Steven Kostanski (who won a prize at the Sitges
film festival for his work) is terrific, and truly complements the psychic
deterioration of the characters.
I will say that this movie isn’t for everyone. It’s bleak.
Really bleak. It’s everything you expect it to be, plus about 1,000 times more.
But if you can take it, this movie is amazing. Watch it, and survive it. Then
go home, hug your loved ones and just feel completely happy knowing that no
matter how horrible and shifty your life may momentarily seem, it could be much
worse. And don’t take what you have for granted, because there may come a time
when your average lousy day becomes the greatest memory you have. You may also
feel remarkably grateful for having the ability to take a shower. Now, go see
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