October 5, 2000

Cornell Cinema

Print More

The best way to describe the Australian flick, The Well, is by comparing it to both Anne of Green Gables and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Sound like a strange hybrid? It is. The film is freaky, to say the least, and doesn’t even gratify the viewer with that final rush of adrenaline that most good thrillers leave with their audience at the end.

A worthy thriller lets the audience experience that almost numbing sense of fear, while providing them with a genuine feeling of security that it’s all make-believe and there’s a guy named Bob in the corner holding a microphone over the fake blood drenched psychopath’s head. It’s a cheap thrill, but a thrill nonetheless. It gets the blood flowing on screen and off.

The Well, shot in an eerie blue light, keeps the audience about as cold and bloodless as the corpse that the plot revolves around.

The film initially follows the blossoming friendship of a peculiar middle-aged woman, Hester, and the spunky, mischievous young girl, Katherine, that she adopts to help her around her dying father’s farm out in the middle of nowhere.

Basically, it’s Anne of Green Gables transferred to Australia and set in the nineties. Oh, and everything looks blue.

Where the tale of Anne and the stern Marilla is heart-warmingly amusing, the tale of Katherine and Hester is down right creepy. In fact, in the beginning of the film where the director attempts to establish the meaning and essence of the friendship, she fails by trying to be too artsy and symbolic. It confuses and weirds out the audience. The line begins to blur as to whether Hester is experiencing her first taste of friendship, which I believe is what the director tries to show, or if she is experiencing her first crush.

After an unfitting and uneventful length of time, the director finally seems to strike a match in the script. A spark of interest appears when Katherine, a menace behind the wheel, hits a man crouching in the road late one night when she and Hester are returning from a party (note connection to I Know What You Did Last Summer).

Hester, who wishes to protect Katherine, loads the lifeless body into the back of the pick-up truck with about as much feeling as a fisherman loading his boat with tuna, and proceeds to drop it down the dry well in front of their house.

The plot takes a Seinfeld-like turn when the two felons realize that the guy, now 40 feet down under, was on his way from robbing their house, which was consequently filled to the brim with cash from the recent sale of Hester’s dearly departed father’s farm. Oh, the drama.

Interest is steadily peaked as Katherine, under the extreme psychological stress of being a teenage murderer, starts to believe that the man in the well is still alive and that she hears him speaking to her. Somehow — it isn’t made quite clear — Katherine ends up falling in love with the bloody bloke (no pun intended).

The film attempts to culminate in a dark and stormy night when tension between the two women comes to a head. As poor, mad Katherine feverishly sleeps, Hester actually begins to hear moaning and the creaking of floorboards, as if someone has entered the house. The please-entertain-me part of any viewer gets at least a little excited that the adrenaline rush is about to come, like a junkie waiting for his first hit after a long draught.

Unfortunately, the train of suspense hits a brick wall when Hester suddenly wakes up to realize that she was only dreaming, the storm is over, and the body has been washed down the well. It’s painfully anti-climactic.

The major obstacle to the quality of this film lies in the fact that the director attempts to make the picture deep and meaningful. Hitchcock’s prime directive in making psychological thrillers wasn’t simply to create a meaningful film; primarily he was looking to scare the crap out of the audience and used intelligent and meaningful direction as his vehicle, not his motive.

Most likely, there are thriller flicks out there that do expand the minds of the audience while simultaneously scaring them to death, but this isn’t one of them. Despite the decent performances by the two women in the film, The Well is dry and fails at quenching any self-respecting thriller fan’s thirst for adrenaline.

Archived article by Laura Thomas