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The Infernal Machine (15)

Cast: Guy Pearce, Jeremy Davies, Alex Pettyfer, Alice Eve
Genre: Thriller
Author(s): Andrew Hunt
Director: Andrew Hunt
Release Date: 02/12/2022 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 111mins
Country: Por/UK/US
Year: 2022

Writer Bruce Cogburn lives in booze-soaked seclusion on the outskirts of Almas Perdidas in California. It has been 25 years since his controversial debut The Infernal Machine was infamously pulled from shelves after a 17-year-old shooter claimed the book compelled him to pull the trigger. A barrage of handwritten letters from a die-hard fan sparks Bruce's paranoia and he acquires a guard dog for added protection.


LondonNet Film Review

The Infernal Machine (15) Film Review from LondonNet

It’s one of cinema’s great ironies that portraits of the writing process seldom find the right words to convey the anguish and exhilaration of committing thoughts to paper or a laptop screen. Based on The Hilly Earth Society podcast penned by Louis Kornfeld, The Infernal Machine is a slow-burning psychological thriller about a reclusive writer’s emergence from solitude to face the threat of an obsessive fan, who may be connected to the deadly campus shooting that sent the author into self-imposed exile. Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning 1990 adaptation of Misery starring Kathy Bates and James Caan knows how badly a relationship between a creative and their fervent admirer can end…

Writer-director Andrew Hunt has fun placing his beleaguered protagonist in jeopardy and slowly tightening thumbscrews with one disorienting twist after another. The house of cards collapses in a messy second half that echoes one of the lead character’s tirades about story structure: nobody cares about an inspired second act if the denouement fall flat. Guy Pearce adopts a wandering Lancashire accent as the guilt-riddled wordsmith, who seeks absolution in a bottle and is too inebriated to spot the warning signs of his impending downfall until it is almost too late.

He plays writer Bruce Cogburn, who lives in booze-soaked seclusion on the outskirts of Almas Perdidas in California. It has been 25 years since the publication of his controversial debut The Infernal Machine, which won numerous awards and was infamously pulled from shelves following a shooting at Knoxville university which left 13 dead and 26 critically injured. The 17-year-old culprit, Dwight Tufford (Alex Pettyfer), claimed the book compelled him to pull the trigger. Bruce communicates with his agent Jerry by pay phone and she forwards mail to a PO box, including a barrage of handwritten letters from diehard fan William DuKent in Aspen, Colorado.

This ardent disciple is a fledgling wordsmith and hopes to speak with his idol. “I don’t do interviews. Never have, never will,” Bruce growls into William’s voicemail inbox. Fanaticism moulders into a dangerous fixation and Bruce grows increasingly paranoid, acquiring a guard dog for protection. Local police officer Laura Higgins (Alice Eve) kindly listens to Bruce’s concerns and when the situation deteriorates, the jittery author seeks an audience with Dwight in a maximum-security prison. “The right combination of words will make a man do just about anything…” icily observes the convict.

The combination of writer-director Hunt’s words won’t make me consider The Infernal Machine as anything more than a ruthlessly efficient potboiler that stumbles at the final hurdle. Pearce puts his character through the wringer while co-stars effectively play against type to sustain tension. Pieces of the elaborate puzzle are more satisfying than the completed picture.

– Sarah Lee


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