As a director, Stuart Gordon is still relevant and has transcended many a horror director of his generation by not being afraid to color outside the lines of conventional fright films. However, Gordon never strays too far, always keeping the horror within an earshot in various ways. Be it the violence of King of the Ants, the depravity of Edmond, or the story of a man Stuck inside a woman’s car windshield after a hit and run automobile accident.
2007’s Stuck is a Stuart Gordon vehicle (see what I just did there?!) with a plot that in one way is as simple as that, a man stuck in a windshield and left to die. However, as it turns out, Stuck is also a deeply layered character study that goes beyond your average black comedy.
Loosely based off of an insane, yet very true story, Stuck follows two main characters; Tom (Stephen Rea), who has recently run into some very tough times in his life. Tom has been evicted from his apartment just before an interview at a job placement agency, that due to an unfortunate computer error is botched and leaves Tom with no chance of getting a job. This series of events results in Tom being homeless and sleeping on a park bench. Then there’s ghetto superstar Brandi (Mena Suvari), who works as a nursing home aide and is being considered for a huge promotion at her job. Brandi celebrates this good news by going out to da club and getting cocked with here “bad news bear” boy toy/drug dealer, Rashid (Russell Hornsby), who feeds her ecstasy throughout the night.
On her way home to meet with Rashid for some of that good lovin‘, a wasted Brandi swerves all over the road as she is blasted and on her cell phone not paying any attention to the road. This is when Brandi and Tom first meet, unfortunately for Tom, it’s because she hits him with her car head on, resulting in Tom being lodged head first in the windshield. Over the limit, and not sure what to do about it, Brandi drives home and parks her new human enhanced hybrid in the garage, leaving Tom to die as she tries to figure out what to do about the situation. Instead of resolving the problem, Brandi takes some more “E” and sticks with her original plan of getting some of that Rashid action, only to wake up the next morning to find Tom still alive in her windshield. Afraid to ruin her possible new promotion (and essentially her life) because of drunk driving, Brandi leaves Tom to die while she tries to devise a plan to get rid of the evidence, thus keeping her out of trouble. All the while, Tom tries to hold on to dear life and survive this tragic ordeal any way he can, as he is once again in a situation that he cannot control.
I’ll start by saying that Stuck is a very black comedy, that while being a horrible situation, is a situation that is open to some humor. Outside of a few scenes and a funny opening at the old folks home set to some tight hip hop music, I wouldn’t consider Stuck’s humor to be very in your face as the comedy elements are “mostly” naturalistic and more about the naivety and lack of compassion from Brandi’s character. Once scene has Tom reaching for and honking the car horn, Brandi desperately tries to stop him and in an evil turn, knocks him out with a 2x4. My favorite line in the film happens soon after that, when Brandi gets in the car and looks Tom dead in the eyes and says, “Why are you doing this to me?” That line made me chuckle quite a bit. Only thing that would have been better, is if Brandy in her best Arnold impression told Tom to "Stick around."
Of course, with a situation involving a man trapped in a windshield, there are some gruesome moments in Stuck. The initial car accident is pretty awesome looking with how its shot and is kinda frightening when it happens. Though a little on the fake side with the windshield glass breaking into big shards instead of spider webbing like a windshield does in real life. Nevertheless, it’s still very cool looking, incorrect or not. Another scene has Tom trying to reach a cell phone left in the car by Brandi, but a broken windshield wiper is jammed into the side of his abdomen causing him great pain. Tom (with very little leverage) tries to lift his body and dislodge the wiper blade, and while you don’t actually see it in his skin because of his clothing, its still a painful scene to watch. One other scene that was very cool and somewhat gruesome is one that I wont go into details about, because it’s spoiler city. I’ll just say that it proves that the pen truly is mightier than the sword…you’ll know what I’m talking about if you see the film. Same goes for the justified, ironic, and very entertaining ending that had me wearing a shit eating grin and loving every minute of Stucks finale.
I can safely say that I really enjoyed Stuck for its humorous moments, and its horrific scenes, but the thing I like most about the film is the characters of Tom and Brandi, and how there lives are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Brandi’s life is going perfectly, she’s young and full of life, she is doing great at work with the possibility of a promotion and she even has landed the man of “her” dreams in Rashid. Her life is on the up rise and only looking to get better, that is until her chance meeting with Tom. Tom on the other hand is as low as it gets, he’s old and worn out, he’s jobless, homeless, and defeated. It would seem that Tom’s life couldn’t get any worse, that is until he literally runs into Brandi. Now Brandi’s life can only get worse, while Tom’s can only get better…unless he dies that is. The two characters are complete opposites in their respected times in life, but in their encounter, everything changes and goes in a different direction for each of them. I really liked this aspect of Stuck and found it to be very smart on Gordon’s (who wrote it) part to have the characters be so contrasting.
Tom’s character is even more developed, intricate, and metaphoric than in his comparison to Brandi. The metaphor is as simple as a man whose life has gone to complete shit; he is so down in the dumps and has almost completely given up on life. He is figuratively stuck in a bad situation that he can’t get himself out of and then literally stuck when trapped in the cars windshield. This of course gives the character another arc, where no matter how bad everything has gone for this man, he still want’s to live, and he will fight as hard as he can to survive his biggest road block in life. This would seem to be a (very harsh) turning point in Tom’s life, where he tries to find the strength to make it through this impossible ordeal, as opposed to just giving up as he had done before when faced with a tough challenge.
I guess you could make a similar case for Brandi’s character that had everything going right for her, but now everything is spinning out of her control as her life is crumbling before her very own eyes. She finds out that Rashid isn’t all that faithful to her (in what is another very funny scene); her career is in jeopardy, along with possibly her freedom if she is found to have committed such a crime. She too is stuck in a situation that she cannot control, and has no idea how to deal with it all. In addition, as with Tom, this is Brandi’s life altering turning point, where she is trying to fight to keep her world from going down the proverbial toilet.
Pretty brilliant character development if you ask me.
So, with a film that for me works as a solid black comedy, I found it to be a nice surprise to have such a well developed set of characters that pushed Stuck up a few notches in the “I like this movie” category. And I did very much enjoy the film and pretty much love most of what Stuart Gordon has done all throughout his career as he is doing some solid films, and I anticipate anything he works on (AND I CANNOT WAIT FOR HOUSE OF RE-ANIMATOR!). I can feel confident in suggesting Stuck to any fan of Gordon’s work, to any fan of good black comedies, and to anyone that likes complex characters, development, and depth in their films.