Director – Taylor Sheridan, Screenplay – Eric Beck, Co-Writer – Rob Kowsaluk, Producers – Eric E. Beck, Nöel K. Cohen, Tina Pavlides & Kelly Andrea Rubin, Photography – Stewart Yost, Visual Effects – The WOW Factory (Supervisor – John Younger), Production Design – Peggy Paola. Production Company – Vile Entertainment LLC./Outsider Pictures/Bosque Ranch Productions/Tony-Seven Films, LLC.
Eric E. Beck (Nick), April Matsen (Tayler), Akeem Smith (Tony), Greg Cipes (Sam), Maya Hazen (Tara), Elisha Skorman (Kai), Heidi Mueller (Lisa), Rob Kirkland (Greg), McKenzie Westmore (Diane), Ian Bohen (Julian), Maria Olsen (Woman on TV)
Two couples are driving back from a day out in the country. Stopping at a gas station, they meet a woman who asks for a lift to get back to where her car has broken down with a can of gasoline. However, as soon as they stop, she abruptly turns and gases them. The four come around inside a house where they have been made prisoners along with five other people. From a video screen, someone explains that devices that contain extractors have been implanted in the backs of each of their necks. They have twenty-four hours in order to fill the extractors with the drugs produced by the brain during suffering. In order to do this, they must inflict pain on one another. Once the digital readout reaches 100%, they will be free to go. As they witness, one guy who tries to tear the device out is instantly killed. They have no other choice but to torture and hurt one another. As they set about doing so, this forces them to make terrible decisions in order to save themselves and sacrifice others.
Vile was a directorial debut for Taylor Sheridan not to be confused with actor who has recurring roles in the tv series Veronica Mars (2004-7) and Sons of Anarchy (2008-14). Here Sheridan directs from a script by the film’s lead actor Eric E. Beck.
It becomes evident even from the cover of the dvd and the brief, single-word title that Vile has been conceived as yet another copy of Saw (2004). (Although, when it actually gets to the plot about a group of people trying to survive and cooperate to get out, Vile tends to resemble Saw 2 (2005) more so than Saw). All of the basics are there – the group of people trapped in the house, an improbably contrived situation where they are required to engage in torture of one another in a variety of gruesome ways, various twists and turns including people among the party being in league with those setting the scheme up (although when the particular individual’s identity is revealed, you keep wondering what purpose their inserting themselves into the group and subjecting themselves to torture serves when the group seems perfectly capable of being directed by the instructions from the video screen).
In practice, Vile ends up being a dull film. Though the film sets out to be in the Torture Porn genre started by Saw and features a premise with a group of people torturing one another, it shies away from actually depicting much of the torture going on in anything other than a rudimentary way. A certain part of one is grateful of this as the squeamish extremes to which the Saw sequels pushed things ended up being gratuitously unpleasant. On the other hand, for a film that sells itself as being part of the Torture Porn genre that Saw belongs to, this also represents an undeniable tameness of spirit.
That just leaves the drama of the situation. Unfortunately, the characters in the film are singularly lacking in interesting features. It is also hard to believe that a film could make a sure-fire premise about a group of people being forced to torture one another for the sake of mutual survival into something so dull and lacking in dramatic tension or even show any of the grim moral decisions that such a situation would no doubt require.
Taylor Sheridan subsequently went on to direct Wind River (2017), a thriller set on an Indian reservation. Far more celebrated have been his scripts for films such as Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016).