Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Exam: What would Sartre do?

Way back in 1995 I was required by my beloved high school English teacher to read Jean-Paul Sartre's play "no Exit."  This French play intrigued me, taught me about existentialism and at the time connected directly to my love of horror films.  While Sartre's play is not specifically horror, the scenario of situations that happen behind closed doors is.  The family barricaded in their house by zombies.  The rag-tag group of misfits holed up in a gas station, fending off the virus, the plague, each other.  Take any group or cross section of society, trap them in an environment and let the audience rattle their brains on who the sole survivor will be.  Sartre's play has been used as a basis for several films and the scenario makes for a great horror setting.  Some bad like Saw III-VI.  Some great, like Cube.  A recent film that uses this scenario is Stuart Hazeldine's Exam.

i caught Exam the other night on IFC On Demand.  Had to pay the ghastly premium price of 5.99.   But my wife was willing to watch a film, borderline horror and this looked like it might suit us.  The film plays with similar situations, people trapped in a room.  The cross section of society.  The riddles they must solve.  The movie was good, not great, but good.  With a second watching I might pick up on more.  What I enjoyed was that it seemed a little more realistic than Cube.  i love Cube.  Will admit I even am a sucker for the sequels.  When i mentioned in trying to justify the 5.99 price tag, i said to my wife that Exam looks like it might be similar to Cube.  She reminded me that I liked Cube, while she on the other hand didn't see the reality in it.  Exam is more likely to happen. 

My real question here is the No Exit scenario and in what real life settings could it happen.  I see the upcoming film Devil uses the people trapped in an elevator scenario...and one of them is...you guessed it.  But what of these scenarios might happen in real life.  Maybe war, soldiers captured.  Hostage situations, bank hold ups, that sort of thing.  Maybe people are in a real life No Exit, in their cubicle, their semi-truck, their life.  The writer Sartre perhaps explains horror's use of his source material best in the quote from No Exit: "We are in hell, my dear, there is never a mistake and people are not damned for nothing."

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