Brian James Fitzpatrick and Dennis Widmyer’s Throwaway begins as such an effectively creepy home-invasion story that its eventual degeneration into torture porn is almost forgivable. Working with a simple but disturbing premise, the filmmakers build tension masterfully, creating an oppressive atmosphere that vanishes as soon as the villain whips out his instruments of torture. The mood is palpable, but in the end, it’s only a tease.
Young, single security technician Abby (a strong performance by Andra Carlson) is struggling to adjust to the night shift at the office. In the early scenes, director of photography Michael Halper paints the barren landscape of the office with an almost-Kubrickian vividness, accentuating bright colors and perfectly illustrating Abby’s boredom. Abby tries to rest during the day, but her sleep is interrupted by a smelly bum (Gill Gayle) who scrounges through her trash and follows her to work. The bum, with his stitched-up forehead and blackened teeth, recalls both Frankenstein’s monster and the dream man from Mulholland Drive. With this memorable villain to work with, Fitzpatrick and Widmyer have the opportunity to create a prolonged feeling of unease, but as soon as the bum attacks Abby in her bedroom, the viewer already senses that the film is about to lose some steam.
Among the film’s most impressive moments are a few subtly chilling visual motifs. Abby’s blinds rustle slowly, suggesting the bum’s presence. A dream sequence of Abby driving to work foreshadows danger when the camera whip pans to a shot of a fire. Simple as they are, these short moments are hard to forget. I am baffled why two filmmakers as talented as Fitzpatrick and Widmyer would be satisfied to unleash another gruesome fate on another pretty girl when they could be using their keen eye for details for more satisfying purposes. Still, the bottom line here is that this film shows a lot of promise. If these two can break out of the “torture horror” mold, I think we can expect great things from them.