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Stuart Gordon
Cast: Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, John Dartt

Joanne Ross

June 16, 2008


Tom is having a very bad day.

 Rashid:            What the f*#!?!
Brandi:            He’s the guy I hit.
Rashid:            The homeless guy?
Brandi:            Yeah.
Rashid:            I thought you said you hit a guy?
Brandi:            He didn’t die.
Rashid:            You didn’t think you’d hit a guy and bring him home with ya?

The subject of Stuck, the latest horror film by Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame, is based on a story literally ripped from the headlines. In 2003, Chante Jawan Mallard hit Gregory Biggs with her car. He got stuck in her windshield. She drove home with him, still lodged in the windshield, and left him to die hours later in her garage. She never reported the incident or sought medical assistance for Biggs. Thankfully, justice prevailed--Mallard is currently serving time in jail for his death. 

The same week of the film’s release, 78 year-old Angel Torres of Hartford, CT was struck by a car and left lying on the street. Witnesses to the hit-and-run did nothing.  Predictably, the incident sparked public outrage.  According to From KABC-TV Los Angeles and AP:

The chilling scene - captured on video by a streetlight surveillance camera - has touched off a round of soul-searching in Hartford, with the capital city's biggest newspaper blaring    "SO INHUMANE" on the front page and the police chief lamenting: "We no longer have a moral compass."

Stuck, therefore, proves timely, touching as it does on the incidents of driving under the influence, alarming attitudes of indifference, and unthinkable acts of cruelty that seem to be on the increase in our society. Director Gordon’s new independent feature is dark, ugly, disgusting, and bloody.  It also happens to be a masterful, well directed piece of filmmaking with a twisted sense of humor.

Poor Tom (Stephen Rea) can’t seem to catch a break.  He’s out of work, his landlord has given him the boot, and the unemployment office has misplaced his application. He finds himself sitting on a park bench where he meets the kindly Sam (Lionel Mark Smith), another homeless man, who offers him a drink, the only act of kindness Tom has experienced all day. Brandi (Mena Suvari), on the other hand is faring much better. A nursing assistant at a retirement home, Brandi’s seeming compassion and hard work have been noticed by her supervisor who considers making her the captain of the NAs.

That evening, Brandi goes to a hip-hop club with her coworker Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) and they meet up with Brandi’s drug dealer boyfriend, Rashid (Russell Hornsby). Meanwhile, during a sweep of the park, the cops push Tom along, so he wanders the empty streets. Later, under the influence, Brandi drives home and has the accident that sends Tom head first through her windshield.

The element of time is central to this film. In the real-life case, people were not only outraged by the act itself (that Mallard brought Biggs home with her instead of getting help) but also by the fact that Biggs lingered for some time in Mallard’s garage while she went about her business.  To emphasize the time element, Gordon includes a time marker on the screen. Combining it with the parallel editing in the early minutes of the film, Gordon creates a tension-filled countdown to the accident.

The other important element that heightens the suspense and tension is fear of discovery (Brandi) and hope for discovery (Tom).  Brandi is understandably terrified of being found out. Keeping Tom’s presence in her garage under wraps has her slowly unraveling at work. For Tom, the clock ticks away, and his chances at being found are dashed.  How much longer can he last?

Up until now, we’ve been watching what I would call an “urban”, psychological horror/thriller, a genre that is more about the “horror” of human (inhumane?) behavior. It isn’t a movie about psycho serial killers, ghosts, or any of the usual stuff you see in scary films. So I assumed it would stay faithful to the story that inspired it. But somewhere around the time when poor old Tom manages to extricate himself from the windshield (yes, incredibly he does), the movie morphs into a darkly comic survival tale with shades of Re-Animator. Oh Hoorah! Just when I thought the die was cast for poor old Tom. But now with the genre switch, maybe, just maybe, Tom’s day might end up better than it started.

With his perpetually unkempt hair and sad-sack face, Stephen Rea is perfect as Tom. With a fierce desire to live, he tries to escape, and in the process winds up resembling one of Dr. Herbert West’s reanimated corpses. Mena Suvari in the role of Brandi is so good she’s scary. Her character has a strong arc. As the film progresses, Brandi’s character changes, or I should say is revealed. The compassionate face she wears rubs off and we see instead a tough-as-nails, cruel, and ugly young woman who’ll go to any lengths, even the unthinkable, to avoid getting caught. This is not a woman who has “lost her moral compass.” She never had one to begin with.

Along the way, Gordon supplies some over-the-top dialogue and twisted humor--one scene involves a bone-loving Pomeranian named Princess.  Gordon also inverts pejorative racial stereotypes while taking a few shots at the hip-hop culture, specifically the “whigga” phenomenon. In an interesting move he casts the Caucasian Suvari (wearing cornrows) in the part of Brandi (Mallard is African American).

Stuck is a disturbing, one might even say nihilistic, film. I can’t argue with those who say it is bloody and offensive. It isn’t for everybody, which is why it’s an independent movie and not a mainstream studio production. On the serious side, Stuck serves as social commentary, forcing us to acknowledge the ugly behavior people are capable of, the inhumanity that lurks beneath our so-called civilized veneer. On the entertainment side, it’s a disgusting horror movie sprinkled with black comedy that is very funny. That is, if you find that sort of thing funny, and I have to admit, I do.—JR*


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