Review by Sean Boelman
There are a few filmmakers who are mainstays in the straight-to-VOD market, and while Japanese filmmaker Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) may not be one of the best, he certainly makes films that are consistently wild and enjoyable. His latest film, The Price We Pay, puts up a relatively subdued guise at first before going absolutely bonkers.
The film follows a group of robbers who take a hostage after a job goes askew and try to hide out at a farmhouse to let the heat die down, only to discover that their supposed refuge may be harboring a sinister secret. You may have seen a thousand films that start this way, but you almost certainly will not expect where the story is going.
The Price We Pay may be an early candidate for the most unhinged movie of the year, and that isn’t necessarily a compliment. It starts out as a relatively generic crime thriller before morphing into something entirely different and much wilder at the midpoint. It may not be a great film, but it sure isn’t boring.
The film’s lead is Gigi Zumbado, and she does a solid job, but she is largely ignored in the marketing in favor of the two more recognizable stars: Stephen Dorff and Emile Hirsch. Hirsch is hamming it up more than ever in the role, but he’s fun to watch, keeping the first half from being overly dull.
Dorff, on the other hand, tries to be the film’s emotional grounding but ends up being utterly confusing. In fact, most of the character development in the film is confusing. It doesn’t help that the film completely changes what it wants to be in the second half, turning a group of characters that are absolutely deplorable into people we are supposed to care about.
The visual style is a bit of a hodgepodge of different cinematic influences. The most obvious is Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, particularly in the finale that begins to grow somewhat redundant, but there are a few moments that ooze Western influence. There are some editing decisions that aren’t great, but stylistically, it’s a lot more ambitious than most straight-to-VOD flicks like this.
Kitamura is known for making ultra-violent films, and this is no exception. The gore on display here, particularly in the second half, is absolutely brutal. It’s a nice mixture of campy and over-the-top with genuinely disgusting and disturbing in a way that feels surprisingly believable given the outlandish premise.
You almost have to admire The Price We Pay for its massive audacity, even if the execution is massively mixed in effectiveness. One thing is for sure, though: you absolutely will not see another movie like this in 2023.
The Price We Pay hits VOD on January 10 and theaters on January 13.