The moment I read the description of EXTREMITY the concept piqued my interest immediately: A woman with a troubled past signs up for an extreme haunt in an attempt to reconcile fears acquired from childhood trauma. It’s a theme very close to the heart of many, if not all, horror fans that usually presents itself as the answer to the question: How can you like being scared? (Answer: It’s therapeutic!)

I’ve rarely seen this theme explored so straightforwardly, so I naturally was excited to watch EXTREMITY, and while I enjoyed it overall — I was a little perplexed with some aspects of the execution.

If there’s one thing that’s made clear at the beginning of the movie it’s that Perdition is an extreme haunt that’s very much reminiscent of those currently on the rise: unforgiving, torture-based fear as opposed to jump scares. In the front half of the movie Allison, our protagonist (if you want to call her that), and one other Perdition participant are subjected to your usual extreme-haunt fare: Aggressive physical contact, verbal abuse, waterboarding, being sealed inside of a coffin, etc.

Paul Braaten in EXTREMITY

Interwoven between all of these events are vignettes of Allison’s life wherein we start to see the bigger picture of why she’s at Perdition: Her father abused her in almost every way possible. It’s clear the haunters know this and are trying to tap into that trauma, but as the day goes on, the pretense of the ‘haunt’ oddly falls away. Masks are removed permanently by the staff, and it’s not clear what this quasi-bloodthirsty troupe wants to accomplish. There are conversations had between Perdition actors about what their goals are — are they here to help people or to hurt people — which feels like an odd thing to do when you’re in the middle of pushing a woman with PTSD to the very brink of her psyche. The leader of the troupe who was all mystery and bravado at the beginning, turns out to be a fame-hungry failed screenwriter who begrudges other people in the business who dare be more successful than him.

Eventually, the cast of Perdition no longer looks like a band of unruly terror peddlers; instead, they look like a bunch of 20-somethings who haven’t a clue what they’re doing. And as more twists reveal themselves and tables turn towards the end of the movie, the question doesn’t become will Allison survive Perdition or will they survive her — which, I frankly didn’t see coming only because we’re bounced back and forth between dozens of themes and storylines. While I can see that being an appealing format given the subject matter, the chaos only makes for a confusing watch.

Ultimately, EXTREMITY wants to accomplish more than what it has the room do, and I fear can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be. Fortunately for EXTREMITY, the final chapter of the movie is intensely satisfying and gives the viewer the payoff they deserve.

EXTREMITY arrives on Blu-ray and VOD October 2nd from Dread Central Presents

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