Sadly, the 100 Feet in the title does not refer to mysterious severed limbs washing up on the shores of British Columbia. No, it’s the distance Famke Janssen’s character Marnie can amble from her home before her ankle alarm goes off. See, a few years ago Marnie put an end to her husband’s abuse by putting an end to him. Unfortunately for her, he was not only Michael Paré, but he was also a cop and so the wheels of justice sorta rolled back over her.
Marnie did some time in prison and now is back in her and her late husband’s home to serve out the rest of her sentence under house imprisonment. But it turns out her late husband’s ghost hasn’t moved on either. (You think it’s easy to kill Michael Paré? Did you even see Eddie and the Cruisers?) For whatever reasons— undying love of his home’s wood moldings? a lack of donuts in Cop Hell?—his (mean)spirit is hanging around threatening her. So now, unable to leave the house, Marnie’s in the annoyingly redundant position of having to kill him again.
Famke Janssen is one of those utilitarian actresses whose strong physical presence sometimes makes her seem a better actress than she really is. She’s still a tall, striking beauty with an intense stare, and she’s always held up her end of the bargain just fine when she’s in support or an ensemble, as in the X-Men films. But putting her front and center to carry a film in which she’s in every scene is asking a bit too much. You can only look sternly exasperated and resolutely panicked so much before it wears thin. Janssen is decent in 100 Feet, but not good enough to make up for the lack of anything else going on around her in the movie.
Mostly 100 Feet is Janssen slowly, moodily, quietly settling into her new life in her old house; punctuated every now and then by the evil spousal poltergeist popping up to knock her around a bit. Bobby Cannavale is around as her husband’s ex-partner, and Cannavale, a perfectly fine comic actor in things like The Station Agent and Will & Grace, seems to have opted for skipping out of this performance, sending in his stead a walking collection of Tough New Yawk Detective clichés. Janssen may grow a bit tedious, but she at least maintains a certain grounded realism. Cannavale shows up every now and then and 100 Feet turns into a Dennis Franz impersonation contest.
(Oh, and Ed Westwick from Gossip Girl is also on hand to take his shirt off. I’m going to pretend I know who he is and why this is important. Carry on…)
The rest is fairly routine and paced like Haunted Masterpiece Theater on downers. I’m all for creeping horror movies that linger in the mood, but if they’re going to slow it down they have to have writing, acting, and atmospheric direction that will hold the viewer’s interest in lieu of shocks and gore. Writer-director Eric Red gets a lifetime pass from hard-core horror fans for having written Near Dark and the original Hitcher in the mid-‘80s, but 20 years down the road he seems to have long since run out of ideas and steam.
(This is also one of those films where everyone seems to quickly accept the idea of an angry ghost trying to kill it’s widow with an “oh, well, okay then…” Janssen’s character bears the supernatural realization with a weary “same crap, different plane of existence” resignation.)
All of a sudden, about 15 minutes from the end, Red orchestrates one nicely twisted scene of shocking violence and gruesome visuals that almost brings 100 Feet back to life. You perk up, thinking “hey, where was this film all this time?!” Ah, but it’s too little, too late—turns out Red only had that one trick up his sleeve, and the rest of the film coasts to a less-than-satisfying finish that feels annoyingly like a cheap Lord of the Rings parody. Yep, you guessed it: 100 Feet just doesn’t go far enough.
(I will note that 100 Feet was released by Asylum Home Entertainment, better known for rushing cheap schlock-offs into the DVD shelves, such as Death Racers, The Day the Earth Stopped, and my personal fave, 100 Million B.C. So it is nice to see Asylum branching out to distribute films directed by someone other than C. Thomas Howell and that have scripts that involve something other than dinosaurs, evil clown-rappers, or naked space aliens. Though come to think of it, 100 Feet could have used a light smattering of naked, alien-clown dinosaurs.)