Recently released on DVD, While She Was Out is a straight to video flick starring, of all people, Kim Basinger. With her behind the film and the lofty praise on the box, you might think you’re in for something tense, original, and excellent. You would, of course, be misled. Our own Rob Hunter deftly used his literacy to dig deep into the comedy sack and make this comment: While She Was Out…Kim Basinger made a bad movie. Blam! This recycled story fails to engage or entertain. Maybe if you’ve never seen a horror or exploitation movie from the 70s this might seem outrageous to you. To real horror fans, this isn’t anything new.
In the film, Basinger plays Della, a quiet woman with an abusive husband. To help make the best Christmas possible for her two children, she heads out late one night to pick up some wrapping paper at the local mall. Close to Christmas, the parking lot is full and Della takes exception to a boat of a car that has taken up two spaces. She leaves a nasty little note on the window and goes about her shopping. Returning to her car, she is confronted by Chuckie, the driver of the car (Lukas Haas) and his non-threatening group of friends. When a security guard intervenes he is accidentally killed, causing Della to flee with the troubled youths pursuing, intent on eliminating the only witness to their crime. After crashing in an abandoned construction site, Della must use the only tools available to her to save herself and see her children once more.
About seven people bite the big one in this flick, though two are by accident, one is off screen, and the others aren’t all that interesting.
There is a gunshot to the head, a broken neck, a tire iron beating with a little stabbing action, another gunshot. The best kill is the most brutal and probably delivered to the least deserving character, but a screwdriver shoved into the neck will mess up your day, deserving or not.
Kim Basinger pees in a stream. No joke. In the middle of being chased by kids who want to kill her, she takes a leak in a stream. There is also an awkward sexish scene.
Learn how to park or a middle-aged mom will mess your whole Holiday up.
The film is pretty much flawed from the premise. This is the year 2009. The kids feel the need to kill the only witness to their crime, despite the fact that the parking lot is probably covered by about 30 cameras shooting all angles. Ignoring that, when you want to cast a group of young people to scare the shit out of an audience, you don’t start with Lukas Haas. He’s about as threatening as another famous character he resembles – E.T. These kids are not intimidating in the slightest.
Further, they’re not all that intelligent, and they don’t make much sense. To make them appear more badass, these guys smoke and drink at awkward times. Finally trapped your victim? Bust out a Corona and share with your buddies! No shit, they all pass a beer around, because they’re that hardcore. They also smoke randomly. So that you’re scared of them. It doesn’t work. These are the dumbest bunch of criminals ever put on film. I’m not sure if it is horrible writing that they’re so bad or brilliant writing that has crafted a cadre of villains so ineffective that you actually believe a suburban housewife could kill them all off.
Some praise has been laid on this film, though I can’t understand how. The acting is across the board bad, though Basinger does the best, her character is a heightened version of basically every character she’s ever played, pushed slightly over the top. The film suffers from laughable dialog and camera shots that are bathed in darkness, covering up some of the more exciting moments of the film that are few and far between. For the big climax, writer/director Susan Montford puts on her ski-mask and steals from Last House on the Left or a similar film (I Spit on Your Grave, for example) and has Basinger engage in an entirely too long and entirely too awkward faux-sex scene with Haas in order for Della to gain the upper hand. Not only has this been done many times before, it’s handled poorly here in that I was uncomfortable not from the situation, but from watching these two awkward people fawn on each other, all the while knowing what was coming, as nonsensical as it was to the characters.
The coup de grâce of this film entering the ‘not good’ category comes in the finale. After finally dispatching all those who tried to kill her, she struggles home. It is worth noting that, legally, Della is probably in the clear. She was defending herself from a group of criminals. The murders were justified in self-defense. So our heroine returns home looking a bit razzled, and is in no mood to put up with her husband’s shit. So she shoots him in the face and murders him while her children sleep upstairs. Is this female empowerment? Is this what women think makes a strong woman? I’ll tell you what it makes – no sense. Because now Della is going to jail. “He threatened to hit me” and “He was mean” do not excuse murder. Della is going to jail, and her pre-teen children are going away. The whole movie is about this one woman trying to survive to see her children again and what does she do when she gets home? She throws it all away.