Brian Cox, Kim Dickens, Tom Sizemore, Robert Englund, Amanda Plummer
Brian Cox gives a mighty performance in this tense, intelligent smalltown thriller.
?The cult horror scribe Jack Ketchum specialises in stories that amp up ordinary, golly-gee Americana, only to even things out by driving the violence up to the same hysterical level. The result is a sort of hyperreal mythmaking, with David Lynch, Norman Rockwell and Stephen King in its mix. Though this style makes Ketchum’s work both cultish and inherently cinematic, filmmakers have only recently begun to take interest. This latest adaptation follows The Lost (EIFF 2006) and The Girl Next Door; like those films, it unearths the horror hidden at the respectable heart of a sleepy town. In Red the trigger is the death of the titular hound, companion of gruff general storekeeper Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox). Widowed in horrible circumstances, Avery is a melancholic, solitary man who tends to prefer the company of his dog to that of humans. When spoiled local thugs come between man and his best friend, a low-key smalltown drama begins to warp into a thriller of visceral intensity. The feud burns slowly, with screenwriter Stephen Susco and directors Lucky McKee and Trygve Allister Diesen taking loving care of the emotional side of their story before letting loose with the vengeful wrath. The result is characterisation with room to breathe: the viewer has time to feel Avery’s anguish and assess his moral position as the full context of his situation gathers mass around him. Much like a Stephen King protagonist, Avery is a hero of complex motivations, whose own latent rage is given frightening free rein when he is attacked: it’s as if he was waiting to be crossed so he could strike back... The great Brian Cox is a perfect choice to portray such masked and dangerous emotions. Though always compelling to watch, Cox is never ingratiating as an actor; a certain severity maintains his characters at a mysterious, authoritative distance, which renders their vulnerabilities all the more affecting when revealed.
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