The art of the minimal locations, tense, thriller is a difficult beast to tame. If you do it well you can end up with a nail-biting experience but it done wrong it becomes a tedious drag of a film. A popular example is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre where it leans harder in the horror direction and Creep taking a first-person twist on the idea with creeping dread. Adonis Complex starts off incredibly strong but falls into tedium when each scene becoming the same series of events until the movie is forced to do something different.
Sam (Jeff McQuitty) and Avery (Koko Marshall) are hoping to just getaway for the weekend to a home they rented up in the woods, arriving a day earlier than their friends for some time together. The weekend is off to a rough start when some past traumas come up between the two and it only gets worse when they meet the homeowner Tad (Brady Burleson Johnson). Aside from being an extreme health nut that just won’t leave them alone, there seems to be an ominous locked door in the house that he tells them to stay away from. Will they be able to escape Tad long enough to enjoy their trip, or is a ruined vacation the least of their worries.
Where Adonis Complex falls into the sinkhole of being repetitive is all the tension, that was built up wonderfully, becomes predictable. Sam and Avery are having a nice time, Tad shows up, starts acting erratic or creepy, and he leaves, rinse and repeat. There never feels like there is an escalation of the creep factor, it stays the same until it all comes to ahead. Factor that in with a goofy section near the big reveal and all tension is suck out in the third act where it should have been it’s most tense.
Without giving anything big away, but spoiler warning just in case, there is a point in the film where it could have ended but it continues to go. This would have left the film’s ending ambiguous, where we wonder about the fate of some of the characters. While it would have been risky for sure, with ambiguous ends almost never being appreciated by audiences, but it would have ended very strong. In the end, the director (Chad Werner) went with the safer option but the film loses tension after that moment and instead ends on an odd choice.
Criticisms aside Adonis Complex obvious does many things right or there would be no tension to begin with, but it chose a genre that if not done properly comes across as weak. Considering the strong characters, actors, and the interesting mystery surrounding the film it is only a few missteps that leave it feeling like an average movie experience instead of a great one. With this being the director’s first feature film I would say that this is a great first film and it is exciting to see where he goes from here.
6 out of 10