Directed by David Fincher
Written by James Vanderbilt
Inspired by the game “Condemned: Criminal Origins” created by Monolith Studios
Cinematography by Harris Savides
Editing by Angus Wall
Cheyenne Jackson as Agent Ethan Thomas
Dennis Haysbert as Detective Alan Handrick
L. Scott Caldwell as Rosa Martin
Richmond Arquette as “The Match Maker”
Synopsis: The following is from the files of Alan Handrick, detective for the Baltimore Police Department, dated August 21, 2006:
This is the official report of Detective Alan Handrick on the case surrounding the murders of Officers Mark Becker and Samuel Dickenson. The case began August 19, when both officers were sent to investigate the murder of a woman named Miranda Davis. Accompanying them was FBI Agent Ethan Thomas, a head forensics investigator in the CIA’s Serial Murder Department (More information on Agent Thomas will be included following this report).
The group arrived at the location around 11:45 P.M. that night. Agent Thomas’s assistant Rosa Martin was at the station during that time, aiding the group with information through a secure cell phone link. After the cause of death was confirmed as unarmed strangling, Ms. Martin was noted to have said that her suspicions were confirmed. The abductor and murderer was identified as a wanted serial killer Thomas had been hunting for some time. Known under the pseudonym “The Match Maker”, the killer had made it a trademark to kill young women and then re-sculpt their image as department store mannequins, disfigured slightly on their cheeks as a signature. However, before Ms. Martin could bring up the official report on the suspect, radio contact was loss with the group (This was later linked to a power surge generated from an axe smashed into the circuit breakers).
When another cop car was sent to investigate the scene, Officer’s Walker and Dickenson were discovered dead on arrival and Agent Thomas was no where to be seen. The causes of the officer’s deaths were bullet shots to the aorta. However, the disturbing news of this was the source of said bullets. Agent Thomas’s gun was discovered at the scene accompanied by two discarded bullet casings. When the autopsies confirmed the bullets shot at the officers were the same as the kind from Thomas’s gun, the order went out for his arrest. It then became my responsibility to be in charge of the investigation and the hoped arrest of Thomas.
However, the most recent hour of the investigation has proved to be very trying. My men are not accustomed to the surroundings here, especially given that the main populace has since abandoned this rundown section of Baltimore. What’s more, the “resident” homeless of this area have been acting surprisingly hostile towards my men. Three officers were attacked in the last hour by a group of thugs, who were apparently hocked up on some unknown drug. The most disturbing news though is the rising suspicion and paranoia many of the officers are experiencing. Rumors have been circulating of a “Serial Killer X”, a being so ruthless that even the most deranged criminal fears his name. I had previously dismissed this as a ghost story made up by the residents, but recent events seem to hint at possibility of such an individual’s existence. Can this “Serial Killer X” somehow be linked to the investigation? And where does Agent Thomas seem to be running too? Only further investigation will confirm any of these details.
What the Press would say:
Ever get that really uncomfortable feeling when you’re walking down a dark alleyway? You know, like the walls might close in on you or someone may be waiting around the corner to mug you? Then be on guard when you experience the year’s most intense and frightening psychological thrillers. With its elaborate pacing, effective use of sound and foreboding atmosphere, David Fincher’s Criminal Origins sets the bar for what atmospheric filmmaking is all about.
Though inspired by a video game, Criminal Origins only similarities to its source are its characters, part of the title and general plot. Writer James Vanderblit has crafted a new story that takes the audience into the darkest areas of police investigations and the disturbing insanity of serial killing. The story is told from two distinct perspectives that seamlessly switch between each other. One is of main hero Agent Thomas, as he tries to prove his innocence and uncover the one responsible for the murders. The other is from the men responsible for hunting him down, who begin to uncover the truth of a horror more frightening than any simple criminal. The dialogue is intelligent, the scenes feel fresh and the progression is well plotted and carried out.
Fincher has pulled the wool over our eyes by giving us a whole new style to his approach on psychological horror. The well-shot cinematography, done by previous Fincher collaborator Savides, is effectively grainy and claustrophobic, almost like your watching actual footage from a police camera. This is aided by the great sets and art design of this rundown section of Baltimore. Also, Angus Wall’s editing is tight yet thoughtfully paced, never resorting to choppy sequences or gimmicks to substitute real terror. However, the most surprising aspect of the film is the way the sound is handled. Throughout the entire showing, there is no score playing in the background. The tension Fincher creates, aided by the editing, carries the film’s momentum so well that you forget that films ever needed music to create a mood. It also helps that Fincher’s crew have pulled off some of the most realistic sound design ever done on film. Every action and sound in the film is spot-on, feeling so real that you’re practically in the scene right then. This is a rare film that creates a new type of fourth wall while never breaking it.
Fincher seems determined to give us nightmares, as all of the suspense and fighting scenes are so well crafted and real you’ll think people are actually being killed. From the cliché-free moments of suspense to some of the most disturbingly real hand-to-hand combat ever filmed, Fincher continues to reign supreme over the wannabe directors who claim to be “masters of horror”. His cast also gets good credit for this, as they all give finely tuned performances. Though Cheyenne Jackson is the main character, his somewhat limited screen time may hurt his Oscar chances. That’s not to say he’s a slacker though, as his believability and natural reactions are stellar (particularly through a disturbing, almost un-watchable torture scene). Thank goodness he has Dennis Haysbert backing him up, who delivers a knockout performance as Detective Handrick. You never assume he’s acting in the film, as the literate, no-nonsense attitude he gives his character is done with so much ease that you’d think he was just like that. The fact he can carry so much of the film by just his mere presence is worthy of Oscar consideration.
Criminal Origins is not your average thriller. It’s not flashy, gimmicky or full of hidden political messages. It is an atmospheric work of art, which is sure to give Fincher the praise he so rightfully deserves.
Best Director (David Fincher)
Best Supporting Actor (Dennis Haysbert)
Best Adapted Screenplay (James Vanderbilt)
Best Art Direction
Best Sound Design
Best Sound Editing