The Price We Pay (2022)

Rating: B

Dir: Ryuhei Kitamura
Star: Gigi Zumbado, Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch, Vernon Wells

I thoroughly enjoyed the cheerily savage nature of this. Much like From Dusk Till Dawn, it starts off a hostage taking thriller, before making a sharp left-turn into horror territory. In this case, a robbery at a pawn shop goes wrong, and the perpetrators, led by Cody (Dorff), take customer Grace (Zumbado) captive, as they try to make their way away. After an attempt to avoid a road-block and a car breakdown, they seek refuge on a nearby farm, despite the reluctance of their teenage host. To nobody‚Äôs surprise except theirs: big mistake. For they have just walked into, and been captured by, a rural organ-harvesting ring run by a mad doctor (Wells) and his family. At least it’s not vampires.

You want more plot? Um… Sorry, you’re largely out of luck. This is stripped down survival horror, although the early stages do have some additional character building. We get a bit of sympathy for Grace in her interaction with the sleazy pawn-shop owner. There’s also tension between Cody and Alex (Hirsch), mostly because the latter is a complete psycho. Again, this is not unlike FDTD, and the Seth and Richard Gecko siblings. It’s funny how often this happens in crime movies. If there are three people carrying out a robbery, it feels like there will inevitably be a smart one, a stupid one and a psycho. Anyway, it’s Alex who first encounters the family, as he seeks to silence the teenage witness. Discovering an underground bunker beneath the barn should probably have been a big red flag, I’d say.

The participants on both sides are largely memorable, not least the Doctor’s daughter Jodi, played by the 6’8″ tall Erika Ervin. There haven’t been many times the unstoppable monstrous killer in a horror movie has bee a woman, but this killer and the eventual manner of her demise are bound to stick in your mind. Indeed, the same goes for everyone else that doesn’t make it. If you said their deaths make more of an impression than your lives, I wouldn’t argue. It’s the kind of film where that is not what I would call a weakness, however. We’re here for the entertaining mayhem, and the grimmer the better.

Dorff seems to be heading steadily closer to turning into a low-rent version of Kiefer Sutherland, the later he gets in his career. That’s fine for this kind of role, where you want someone who can kick ass, while being a bit edgy about it, yet still retaining the audience’s sympathy. Wells also does well, as it were: s’funny, we don’t see him in forever, then two movies starring the veteran crop up in little more than a month, with this and Red Snow. Having recently been disappointed by some old-school Kitamura – which is what alerted me to this – it’s good to see he can still deliver the imaginative carnage for which we love him. I hope he keeps getting the chance to show it.