Pandora’s Box is an advisory column in which I watch a film based solely on its cover art, or box if you will, and determine whether or not it’s worth your time when you’re perusing the horror section of Instant Netflix. I do no research and watch no trailers, these films are completely and 100% unknown to me. You shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but I intend to do so with these movies. Will I uncover a glimmer of hope for my strange viewing habits or utter despair? We won’t know until I open…Pandora’s Box.
What Grabbed Me
First and foremost it was Mila Kunis, because seriously, I’m only a man. The cover also has one of the buzzwords that is meant to instantly generate interest among horror fans: UNRATED. The cover indicates that some horrible trouble-making teenagers get sent to a boot camp in which horrifying things go down and they deservedly get their comeuppance.
Sophie (Mila Kunis) is deeply troubled, or so it seems. She’s misunderstood by her parents and the only person who she can be nice around is her boyfriend Ben (Gregory Smith). When her parents send her off to boot camp to get straightened out, she, and the others in her prison are subjected to an inhumane amount of humiliation and torture at the hands of the staff and their leader, Norman Hail (Peter Stormare). Ben manages to infiltrate this inescapable island by getting into trouble so he can somehow be of some help to Sophie. They band together the rest of the prisoners to try and overthrow the cultish leader. The film is based on true events.
Being based on true events might be part of the problem with this film. It never feels like a horror film ever, it feels like a drama. That’s not to say that being based on true events always prevents a movie from seeming like a horror film, because we’ve seen examples of that, and a great film can come of stories like that. The film just never really takes off and just kind of feels boring. The final act picks things up a little bit, but it comes at a point where all you can think is that it’s too little too late.
Mila Kunis actually does a good job here, and this being filmed sometime in 2006 proves that she’s had strong acting talent in her long before her role in The Black Swan. There is a really good performance by Peter Stormare here, but let’s be real, he always delivers, even when the source material isn’t all that good.
If you temper your expectations and happen to be looking for a drama wherein some misunderstood kids try to right injustice that takes place against them, this might not be a bad film to take in. Despite that, this goes down as a Pandora loss. Peter Stormare and Mila Kunis were enough to keep me from giving up on it entirely, but weren’t enough to make me enjoy what I sat through.
Hope or Despair
This certainly was a strange film to watch for the first Pandora’s Box. On the one hand, I did watch a potentially interesting drama with a solid performance from an always reliable Peter Stormare, and even a good one from Mila Kunis. On the other hand, when I write these articles I’m hoping to discover some new horror films so I can better expand my knowledge of the genre. I feel like I was slightly duped because this never felt like a horror film, but only a decent teenage drama. Sadly, this box was full of despair.