A workmanlike thriller from My Bloody Valentine director Georges Mihalka, Cruel and Unusual is notable mostly for the psychological acuity of Rod Browning and Robert Geoffrion's script and the presence of frequent screen villain Tom Berenger as a cunning sociopath. Freudian baggage is pretty much the stock in trade of middle-tier serial-killer movies, but Berenger and cast mates Rachel Hayward and Tygh Runyan make the most of their characters' shadowy emotional entanglements. The film's backdrop -- the financially strapped fishing industry in a seaside Oregon town -- adds specificity and thematic thrust where other films of this stripe would settle for vague generalities. Unfortunately, though, Cruel and Unusual is still the type of movie that suffers from overwrought foreshadowing and forced sex scenes set to the tune of bluesy soft rock guitar. That's a lot to forgive, even in a flick this modest in its intentions.
by Brian J. Dillard review