Stuck is a bizarre, weird, and gruesome story of a woman who hits a homeless man and leaves him in her car’s windshield to die. Based on the true story of Chante Mallard who did the same back in 2001, the film does a fine job of creating tension and horror, but then destroys it with some twisted comedy that doesn’t play into the structure.
Mena Suvari plays the lead character, renamed Brandi Boski for this fictional film account. Her character, while a hard worker at a local assisted-living facility, is also self-destructive, which leads to the events after a night of hard partying.
The first half hour is a character build-up, and with the exception of Stephen Rae, nearly every performance here is terrible. The unnatural, unbelievable dialogue doesn’t help, but couple that with the performance of Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and you’re left without much of merit. It’s bad enough to turn the movie off for good, although thankfully, it turns around with the second act.
Stuck is saved by the sheer agony Rae’s face. You feel every cut simply by looking at his expressions. The copious amounts of blood and gore certainly don’t help either; this is hardly one for the squeamish.
As Suvari slowly realizes what she’s done, her panic becomes the face of a confused woman without a way out. Her sudden realization that her promotion at work could be on the line over the suffering of another human is an odd piece of the human psyche that only makes you question what is happening inside her mind.
The difference between the film and the true events is that Rae finds a way out of the windshield, as opposed to tragically bleeding to death. As Rae struggles to find a way to alert people outside of the garage he’s stuck inside (a broken leg prevents him from getting too far), a series of far too convenient and contrived events follow. People walk by with absurd reasons to get close, an attempt to build tension. The first time it works. By the third time, it’s a cheap way to build audience sympathy.
That would be a small flaw if the movie had stayed on a straight path. Instead, it takes a sharp turn into dark comedy territory where it begins to fall apart. Suvari tries to hide the body in garbage bags, beats him in the head with a wooden plank, and tries to hire someone to kill him off.
It is done almost in the style of a twisted cartoon, with the characters suddenly becoming caricatures of their former selves. It’s jarring, and in the sense that this is attempting to tell a modified version of a true story, completely inappropriate.
In the end, the film still manages to create some tension. You’ll find yourself rooting for Rae during his struggle, and that’s a sign the film is doing something right. Despite a rough start and a misguided middle, it has enough going for it in its brief runtime to make it worth your while.
Stuck is an ugly, grim film, and that’s the best way to sum of the video presentation as well. Black levels are non-existent, settling into a gray scale for the entire running time. Stuck is completely devoid of dimensionality. It’s odd considering this was shot on film, the digital intermediate stage obviously wreaking havoc for some intent that really isn’t coming across.
This Image AVC encode doesn’t help either, a noisy, compressed mess that delivers constant background noise. Walls are lined with chroma artifacts and detail is wiped clean because of the encode intrusion. Colors are intentionally faded, appropriate considering the narrative (and maybe that’s where the black levels go south), flesh tones pale and dim.
Audio comes in the form of a DTS-HD mix, and aside from surround use inside a club, it’s an underwhelming mix. Bass is flat even with the minimal soundtrack. Dialogue is mixed well without any needed volume adjustment.
The disc comes with a commentary from director Stuart Gordon, writer John Strysik, and Suvari. Four featurettes follow, including one that isn’t advertised correctly. While yes, the featurette does cover the true story, it does not contain any actual news footage as stated on the box, only an interview with the reporter who covered it. Other brief features cover the gore effects and the shoot.