Neil Sedaka sang it right years ago: breaking up is hard to do. There are the memories, good and bad, the sort that linger and haunt a person in the middle of the night. There’s the loneliness and now having to do everything on one’s own. The mixture of emotions are enough to drive a person crazy: relief, sadness, regret, disappointment. And then there’s the what-if’s: what if I’d paid more attention, been more supportive, more trusting? Could we have made it work? A major split-up is the kind of event that rocks a person’s foundations.
The 2010 indie horror thriller A Horrible Way to Die takes a unique, pulse-pounding look at the messy aftermath of a relationship and considers the question of what could make the newly single girl’s suffering any worse.
For Sarah, the answer is a horrible secret she’s trying very hard to keep to herself as she progresses through the difficult stages of recovery. She’s moved to a new town, having left her past behind. There’s a new job and a new apartment, decorated a lot like the old one, with pretty white christmas lights hanging in the bedroom. A new relationship appears possible too, so she has to figure out if that is something she wants and is ready for. Most significantly, there’s her new resolution: staying sober after years of existing in an alcoholic fog.
Her big secret is that her ex-boyfriend is a notorious serial killer, the kind with widespread name recognition, a famous mug, and a few fans. When the news breaks that he’s escaped from prison and launched a new cross-country killing spree that appears to be headed her direction, Sarah doesn’t know which way to turn. She can’t be certain if her quiet, anonymous life is keeping her safe or putting her in more danger.
Even as a horror fan, I’m a romantic at heart, so I found that the relationship stories heightened the tension and terror of the movie. But don’t expect a sweet story or a happy ending; there’s gore, violence, and murder enough to keep anyone occupied. The real strength of this film is the solid acting from Amy Seimetz as Sarah and AJ Bowen as the escaped murderer Garrick Turrell. We see their relationship in blurry flashback form, the stuff that memories are made of, and we wait anxiously for their paths to cross again. Given the title, we don’t think that will end well.