Credit where credit is due, SyFy Channel will occasionally try something different. This movie looks and feels nothing like their monster-of-the-week format; factor in what for them would be a super-A-list cast (Famke Janssen, Ed Westwick, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pare) and this is something altogether out of their comfort zone.
Given information about this is hard to come by, all this is supposition, but…looking under “production company” on IMDB, of the 6 listed, this is the last (or only) film for three of them, there’s the special effects house which got a production credit, and two other producers who didn’t do anything else for at least five years. I think this was a huge financial disaster for the people making it and drove them under, allowing SyFy Channel to snap the rights up for a song, and also for our enemies at The Asylum to get the DVD rights – you know they’re not paying unless they absolutely have to.
If you recognise the name of writer / director Eric Red, then you loved horror in the 1980s. His first produced script was “The Hitcher”, one of my favourites, and he also wrote “Near Dark”, the beloved vampire movie. After that? Not so much. Looks like he quit the business for a decade only to come back, make “100 Feet”, then quit again (he does have a directing credit for a dogs-gone-wild movie from 2015). I was happy to see his name, certainly.
Janssen is Marnie, being taken in handcuffs to house arrest, after spending a couple of years in prison for murdering her husband Mike (Pare). It was self-defence, thanks to years of beatings, but it seems absolutely no-one believes her – not her sister, certainly not Shanks (Cannavale), Mike’s old partner and the guy driving her. So, she’s taken back to her old house, and is fitted with an ankle-bracelet which will alert the police if she spends more than three minutes over 100 feet from the base unit, fitted at the top of her stairs.
*record scratch noise* You don’t need to be particularly eagle-eyed to spot the very significant problem this movie has. She’s not quite able to reach her front door before the alarm starts, meaning she has to do a weird stretch to let people in – if you live in a two-storey house, please go and measure the distance from the top of your stairs to the door. I’ll wait. I’m going to say not a single one of you got over 40 feet, and even the most generous measurement of her old house wouldn’t put it much above that. The alarm also triggers when she’s in her basement, which is probably even closer to the base unit than her door is. Did no-one involved in this say “maybe we should change the title to “50 Feet”? Or if 100 feet is a thing for house arrests, just put in a line about the base unit malfunctioning, or something. It’s really dumb!
This crack then opens to release something of a floodgate of odd choices from Red. Marnie owns a huge old house in New York, with a value in the millions. Who was paying the taxes on it while she was in prison? They put in a scene with Marnie’s sister, who hates her, just to say that their mother used her life insurance to buy the house for her, but that still doesn’t explain who’s paying the bills. The NYPD? Thinking about it, why did her mother buy the scene of her abuse, and not just get her a nice new apartment somewhere else? She’s seen inquiring about a phone sales job at one point, presumably put in when someone thought about how she’s affording all this stuff, but it’s never mentioned again.
All this is a shame, as the meat of the movie is really quite interesting. Mike is haunting the place and starts assaulting her – to avoid the cops thinking she’s crazy, she explains away the bruises and cuts as clumsiness on her part…just as so many battered women do every day. It made me feel very sad at the same time as admiring its mirroring of her old life. The haunting increases in intensity, and she tries to get rid of the spirit by tricks taken from old books – maybe the script was written before the internet was a thing and no-one bothered changing it. Her developing friendship with grocery delivery guy Joey (Westwick) is sweet and believable, and she doesn’t look like she’s 23 years older than him.
Despite the case involving his partner, Shanks apparently doesn’t read the file on the murder until halfway through the movie, despite the fact he’d definitely have been questioned about the abuse at the trial. He finds out that she’s not lying, and Mike did beat her regularly, so then goes from hating her to angrily wanting to pin the murder on Joey. There’s also the thing of how he spends all day outside her home, apparently – does he not have normal police duties to take care of? Could she not use his obvious harassment of her to get the terms of her house arrest eased?
Everyone’s behaviour in the last 10-15 minutes is just inexplicable. A quick word about the priest – at one point, while trying to clear the house of all Mike’s belongings, she finds a bag full of cash, like millions of dollars, and rather than calling her lawyer, then the police (which would help her case a great deal), she decides to give it to her local church. The priest comes round, takes her confession, takes the cash but when she asks him to bless the house, he just says “no” and leaves. What? Actually, she finds the money under some loose floorboards in her bedroom…why didn’t she notice those loose floorboards when she was living there before?
Should you choose to watch this, I will leave you to ponder the very last scene and think “how is that person going to live, with no money, no social security card, and no family?” And, even though I’ve spent a thousand words laying into it, it’s still way above average for SyFy. Janssen is fantastic (even if the script and direction isn’t), in every second of the movie pretty much, and I like Westwick a lot too. Cannavale is meh, and Pare presumably did the part as a favour to Red (they’d worked together before), as he has no dialogue and spends most of the movie as a blood-soaked ghost. If you can ignore the Grand Canyon-sized plot holes, you’ll probably have a good time if it’s shown on SyFy any time soon. Although they’ll probably cut most of the swearing and bits of the sex scene.
Rating: thumbs in the middle