Stars: Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren, Roman Kemp, Stuart Nurse, Sameera Steward, Maria Popska | Written and Directed by C.A. Cooper
In the interest of full disclosure I feel I should say now that this is my first review in several years and with that in mind, I approached this review of C.A. Cooper’s feature debut, The Snare, with some trepidation. Part of me was hoping for a film that would elicit a balanced, in-depth review hitting on both the good and bad aspects, while another part longed for an amazing experience that I could slather in superlatives and praise. However, there is still that other part that longs for something that demands my venom. The part that is angry to have endured a film and screams to vent.
Upon viewing The Snare, which part would be left sated?
The Snare tells the story of Alice (Eaoifa Forward), a troubled young woman (we know this as her eyebrows are knitted in a perpetual state of worry from the very first frame) who sets off on a trip with her friend Lizzy (Rachel Warren) and her boyfriend Carl (Dan Paton) to a deserted holiday home by the sea. Owned by Lizzy’s father and closed for the season, the keys are left unattended long enough to find their way into Lizzy’s possession.
Of course, this is an opportunity not to be squandered and the trio set up shop on the top floor, setting in motion a series of increasingly unbelievable (and occasionally ridiculous) events that render them trapped, with no means of escape and with an ever-dwindling stock of supplies. Are our protagonists at the mercy of simple bad luck or are there darker, more malevolent forces at play?
It very quickly becomes clear that the answer to my previous question is “who cares”?
After some jarring dialogue which touches on coprophilia, incest and menstruation, it soon becomes clear that this is a project devised to be as wholly unpleasant as it can possibly be within the restrictions imposed by its presumably slender budget, minimal cast and largely singular location.
Admirably, Cooper and Co. have somehow managed to imbue almost every frame with an oppressive air of quiet claustrophobia, aided by throbbing, unsettling sound design. However, as soon as you begin to appreciate this and warm to it, it is quickly squandered by the film’s numerous, glaring failings.
For the most part, the cast are decent, turning in extremely dedicated (and often fearless) performances as they munch on maggots and spiders and that’s before things get too weird and nasty. Forward ably carries the film on her shoulders, arcing nimbly from hysteria to silent rocking insanity as her character’s mind unravels. Warren does her best with the material she has been given and throws herself whole-heartedly into the moments where The Snare is truly at its creepiest. I use “creepiest” here, not as it refers to the “horror” aspects of The Snare, but more to the overall feeling that the film invokes. More on that later.
Dan Paton’s Carl demands special mention. From the first moment in which we are introduced to Carl and his interesting approach to travel conversation, to his suitcase full of condoms and lubricant, we are exposed to one of the most intensely unlikeable characters I have seen in a long, long time; a leering, laddish sack of testosterone that appears to have been written here as a villain-by-proxy in lieu of any tangible threat or enemy to speak of.
Which brings us on to the real issue with The Snare: the story. Or lack thereof.
What we have here is, at best, a bearable 15-minute long short film, albeit with the flimsiest of premises, which Cooper has somehow managed to drag out to a protracted 92-minute plod. It is, sadly, one of the most interminable experiences that I have had the misfortune to sit through in recent years.
This already outrageous runtime is further padded out by cackhandedly shoe-horning in the occasional jump-scare and a series of badly-edited and bloated visions of sexual encounters, prowling old women, dead kids and bloody corpses. This comes over as a transparent attempt at jamming in some horror elements, designed to make the whole film that little bit more interesting, a task which it singularly fails to achieve.
While lack of a clear story isn’t necessarily a bad thing and loathe as I am to ever advocate the force-feeding of narrative to the viewer, it strikes me as odd that so little service should be paid to story development here, while so much runtime is devoted to slavish depictions of rape and abuse.
Here’s the creepy bit.
This is a film that seems to revel in these darker moments and, indeed, positively enjoys them. It seems built around them, and presents these things for shock value and in a wholly mean-spirited way. This is a large part of what, finally, makes The Snare so unpalatable. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one to flinch at extreme content, so long as it’s in some way justifiable in context, but here, with these scenes presented with such malicious glee, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Is it all in Alice’s head? Is there some supernatural force keeping the trio here? Who the hell cares? Not Cooper, that’s for sure. There are no answers here. The Snare is a largely inept, often puerile slog and an exercise in boredom endurance that offers nothing to the viewer beyond a lasting feeling of annoyance when the credits, mercifully, roll.
The Snare is released in US theaters on January 13th and On Demand January 6th.