When it comes to the films that Efrit and I seek out, we always start with originality. We are both willing to break our horror preferences for the sake of a creative plot and clever delivery. While we'll give nearly anything a chance to entertain, we limit our expectations. But, a handful of times every year, we see a movie that looks like it comes at a new angle and we get overly excited. 400 Days looks to be one of those movies we are overhyping ourselves over.
Claustrophobic-induced insanity isn't a new concept. Below, Sunshine, Exam and The Divide come to mind. But it is also a subject that hasn't been over-saturated due to the heavy reliance on script and acting, which, let's be honest, tend to be the handicaps of most lower budget horror films. 400 Days tells the tale of four aspiring astronauts undergoing an experiment to test their psychological resolve after being shut off from humanity in a bunker for 400 days (imagine that) in an effort to determine the efficacy of an extensive manned mission in space. During this test, chaos ensues, which leads us the viewer to determine whether this experiment is more than was initially depicted, or our protagonists are suffering some major psychological breakdowns, which may include some extravagant folie a deux concepts.
What I always find interesting about these concepts is the disconnect from humanity with humanity still present. It is this almost supernatural ambiance of psychological deterioration when disconnected from the whole of humanity. Even with three other people to communicate and collaborate with, there is a disparaging rift caused by a separation from the world. What is it about this disconnect that causes such a mental disruption? In the realm of complete and utter solitude, the destruction of the human mind makes sense, but why is it when we still have others to interact with, the idea of being the remaining handful leads to chaos?
Sunshine, one of my favorite non-horror films (though it cracks a handful of qualifiers from our criteria), tackles this concept in a more mild way (provides examples in minor and major ways) in a more direct method (a literal disconnect from humanity with the significant possibility of no return). You can see the mental fortitude of some and the unravelling of others based on the concept of objective loneliness and assured death. 400 Days tackles the problem from what appears to be a less direct perspective. We are teased with a group mental breakdown similar to Below, with a less direct problem because we are forced to question the validity of the established rules and the psyche of our heroes. Which sounds really promising, until you see the cast.
Really? Dane Cook trying horror again? Was Mr. Brooks not enough of a sign that this guy's transition into acting from comedy just wasn't working? I mean, sure, Waiting is a classic, but not because of him. Good Luck Chuck was nothing special. Employee of the Month wasn't terrible, but had that low-budget 80's comedy homage feel to it. Regardless...Cook isn't my favorite choice to lead as one of the four astronauts, but I won't let my previous inclinations of his talent ruin the movie before I give it/him a chance. He could surprise, like the movie, and be an impressive psychological horror film that tickles are horror bone and decomposing brain function.