Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
|Featuring:||Marc Blucas, Justine Waddell, Sherman Augustus, Laura Jordan, Max Ryan, Bill Moseley, Jeff Hollis, Josh Skjold, Priscilla Barnes, T.G. Boleyn, Bruno Jasienski, Jack Ryan|
|Director:||Alan B. McElroy|
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox|
The movie “Thr3e” is based on the bestseller of the same name by Ted Dekker. It is a thriller marketed as a horror movie and it is getting terrible reviews from all the secular outlets. I will explain what I think is the reason for those poor reviews later in this review.
The basic plot of “Thr3e” involves Kevin Parson, a seminary student (Marc Blucas); Jennifer Peters, a police psychologist (Justine Waddell); and Samantha Shears, his childhood friend (Laura Jordan). Parson is both hunted and haunted by a voice from his past as Peters tries to solve two series of crimes which may or may not have two separate criminals.
“Thr3e” opens in a seminary classroom in which the discussion introduces the theme of the movie: man’s life-long struggle against evil. If I remember correctly, Professor Francis asks “Who said ‘Evil is the blemish of our species that will not spare any man.’” A student incorrectly answers “Freud” and the professor rejoins with a smile “Freud is not my favorite moral philosopher.” The correct answer is Kant, and it leads to subsequent discussions of being evil, doing evil, and struggling with evil.
That answer also frames the existential tension in the movie. The evil in the movie is clearly physical because a psychopath uses bombs to kill his victims. But the evil is also psychological as evidenced by the use of a psychologist and the clever plot twist. Finally, the evil is spiritual. One of the clues the stalker leaves is a direct quotation from Romans 6:23. In varying degrees, the movie references a police detective, a psychologist, and a priest to solve the riddle of the crimes.
“Thr3e” cannot be properly understood without observing these three aspects of the plot. The title of Kevin Parson’s dissertation, The Nature of Evil, is another clue for the viewer as to the theme of the movie. These are essential ingredients to the film and seem to be universally ignored by critics who are either looking for horror only or don’t know how to find a movie’s theme.
A further hint is offered in the statement by Professor Francis: “There are three natures: the good, the bad, and the poor soul struggling between them.” In other words, it isn’t just the serial killer that is the subject of “Thr3e;” it is evil as it manifests itself in the life of good, bad, and struggling individuals. Some succumb to evil entirely (the Riddle Killer); some seek to overcome evil (the psychologist); and some struggle with evil (Kevin Parson).
The movie progresses from incident to incident using the mechanism of the stalker’s phone calls to drive the action. Unfortunately, the tone and direction fail to convey the intelligence of the story line. In this regard, the film is similar to “The Da Vinci Code,” which, in spite of its multiple themes and frantic pacing, produced an emotionally flat movie. It also reminds me of “Godsend” which was likewise a good idea with flawed execution. Perhaps if director Robby Henson had Ron Howard’s budget for the “The Da Vinci Code,” he would have made a much better movie, but we’ll never know.
One can criticize many aspects of the movie. It is too claustrophobic, giving it a made-for-TV feel; it is under populated, which continually reminds viewers that they’re on a set; the acting alternates between flat and shrill, which undermines the credibility of the characters; and, for my taste, it relies too much on the conventional horror gimmicks of jump sounds, jump images, and nervous camera work.
Unfortunately, the director made a stylistic choice of emulating the look of “Saw.” This was a regrettable commercial decision. I think the subject matter would have been better served by turning it into a noir suspense drama which would focus more on characters and themes and less on special effects and the manipulation of viewers’ emotions.
Having said that, I would like to address what I consider the critics’ bias against the movie because of its Christian theme.
In keeping with the theme of three, it is appropriate to quote Goethe who once said that there are three kinds of readers: the one who enjoys without judging, the one who judges without enjoying, and the one who reading and judging enjoys both. Clearly, it is best to be in the latter category.
This is why Christians are directed to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and it is both foolish and even sinful to see movies like, for example, “Borat…,” for the mere pleasure of self-enjoyment. That type of viewer falls into the first category of reader/viewer which one may classify as childish or ignorant but not as innocent.
No adult Christian should be so foolish as to indiscriminately consume media without reflection. Such a person would not eat food indiscriminately, and movies “rich” in comedic folly are far worse for the spiritual person than are rich foods. We are not living in an innocent world and cannot claim an “innocent” pursuit of pleasure in defense of our actions.
The second type of reader Goethe identifies reminds me of the critics that one may peruse at Rotten Tomatoes. Some object to the aesthetics, some object to the story, and others object to the Christian ideology. All have valid points. My objection is that they don’t apply the same standards to secular films. They judge without enjoying because their politics get in the way.
For instance, a grossly political movie like “The Children of Men” gets an over 90% rating. The reason the critics like this movie so much is because they agree with its propagandistic aim which the director, Alfonso Cuaron, in the special “Children of Men: Visions of Men,” admits is about “ideology.” The movie cites “Homeland Security,” anti-immigration policies, and portrays a society oppressed by a fascist, racist police state. Sound familiar? The same territory was covered by “V for Vendetta” last year and both are obviously attacking the United States from a Leftist perspective.
Such reviews and such reviewers are deeply dishonest and are practicing what is called in literary and film studies “reception theory”:
“It is likely that the less shared heritage a reader has with the artist, the less she will be able to recognize the artist’s intended meaning, and it follows that if two readers have vastly different cultural and personal experiences, their reading of a text will vary greatly.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reception_theory
In other words, the critics are showing their ideological affiliation by judging movies based on their own “cultural experiences.” They prove themselves to be dishonest viewers who approve or disapprove of a movie based upon ideology but express in their writing a supposed objective standard of judgment. The critics of “Thr3e” who object because it is “aimed at a Christian audience” or because it is “for that good Christian family who’s aching to see a neutered, unoriginal crime thriller” are clearly offended by its Christian content. That is a perfectly valid reason, but they should be professional enough to treat it as another element of the movie or to say that the ideology is their major complaint.
When I review a movie that I object to on Christian grounds I state so specifically. That is, I don’t hide my ideology behind a dishonest attempt at objectivity. The very purpose of a Christian Web site is to provide a Christian perspective. As such, it is openly ideological. But secular media outlets, by definition, are also ideological and Christians should not be naïve about recognizing the fact. Secular critics objected to “The Passion…” because it was Christian, not because it had too much blood and violence.
It would be refreshingly honest and even commendable in such a fractious time as ours if a critic would simply say “It is a bad horror film, and I don’t like Christian movies” and could do so dispassionately.
Lastly, there is the type of person who enjoys both viewing and judging. Christians are repeatedly called upon to enjoy the things of the world as well as to discriminate in their usage (Romans 14:1-3). In that regard, one may judge “Thr3e” on both the grounds of taste and judgment. As to taste, if you like the look and feel of horror films, then you may like “Thr3e.” As to judgment, if you like a movie that deals with profound issues such as good and evil, then you may likewise like “Thr3e.” Like “Godsend,” “Thr3e” is a drama dealing with issues of faith and morality that went astray by trying to appeal to the horror market.
Nonetheless, the central question of the movie is one that is relevant to everyone because in each of us is a soul that is engaged in a life-long struggle between good and evil (Romans 7:14-21). I recommend this movie in spite of its cinematic flaws, because that is the crucible that Kevin Parson finds himself in and which secular reviewers, too, caught up with formal criticisms, are unable to see.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None