Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Divide: Nothing Fun about the End of the World

If the apocalypse actually comes, you might regret giving away your canned goods. However, Xavier Gens’ gruesome end-of-the-world neo-grindhouse pseudo-sci-fi thriller could use all the good karma it can get. To that end, distributor Anchor Bay Films and Feeding America Food Banks are holding a can drive in conjunction with its opening weekend release. While there might be good deeds going on in the lobby, there will be nothing but cruelty and inhumanity on-screen when Gens’ The Divide (trailer here) opens in New York this Friday with a set of midnight showings.

Before you can say “Sarah Connor,” the world goes up in a mushroom-shaped flash. Unfortunately, a diverse cross-section of a Manhattan apartment building is able to push their way into their Super’s bomb-shelter. Old Mickey is supposed to be a surly crank, but events seem to be vindicating his world view. Yet, despite having the foresight to stock up on Chef Boyardee and electric generators, he kept the place’s early Hostel décor.

Despite his myriad of faults, misanthropic Mickey will not be the most pressing problem for the churlish band of survivors. Indeed, freaky frat boys Bobby and Josh quickly depose their reluctant host as top bananas of the bunker. Of course, protagonist Eva’s fiancé is not capable of standing up to them. Being French, Sam instinctively practices appeasement.

Divide is thoroughly unpleasant and completely illogical. Granted, the end of the world is liable to bring out the worst in people, but reducing them to cross-dressing rapists goes beyond gratuitous. Likewise, the nefarious doings of the Hazmat team above makes no sense whatsoever, functioning merely as an episode to thin the bomb-shelter’s ranks.

It is truly depressing to see Rosanna Arquette so horrifically abused as Marilyn, a grieving mother rendered an animalistic sex object by Bobby and Josh. Toto’s song “Rosanna” was named after her, for goodness sake. In the lead, Lauren German is adequate, but unremarkable, while Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s Courtney B. Vance looks like he cannot wait for his comparatively cerebral neighbor character to die. Frankly, amid all the squalid madness, only Michael Biehn maintains a sense of dignity and humor as the cranky survivalist super. By now, he certainly knows how to get his screen-time’s worth in a B-movie.

To give him due credit, Gens certainly makes viewers feel claustrophobic, but not in a good way. Lurid, heavy-handed, and brutal, The Divide is simply not a good time at the movies. By all means, bring a can of food when it screens midnights this weekend (11/13-11/15) at the Landmark Sunshine in New York, but watch a different film.