No doubt you recall Chante Mallard, the Fort Worth nurse who, in October 2001, struck a 37-year-old man named Gregory Glenn Biggs with her 1997 Chevy Cavalier, lodging him in her windshield; she allowed him to remain there, where he died two hours later despite his desperate pleas for help. It's become the stuff of urban legend -- this story of the nurse who parked her car, went inside, got some friends and tried to ditch the body and burn the car to destroy the remnants of her horrific crime. Mallard was sentenced four years ago to 50 years in prison for what Fox News would come to call the "Chante Mallard Windshield Death Case."
Well, now it's a movie -- one that premiered at midnight this very morning at the Toronto International Film Festival, to the choking cheers of a crowd that found filmmaker Stuart Gordon's take at once darkly comic and heartbreakingly sickening. Stuck -- a brilliant name that also reduces the crime to a sick joke -- is a horror film about "man's inhumanity to man," said the TIFF programmer who introduced the best film ever made by the same rotund, jolly gentleman who made the cult classic Re-Animator.
American Beauty's Mena Suvari plays the Mallard stand-in; Stephen Rea, Oscar-nominated as Best Leading Actor in 1992 for The Crying Game, is in the Biggs role, more or less. Because, see, the story's the same as the 2001 tale, only the setting's been changed, along with the names; Fort Worth is now Nova Scotia, alas.
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Gordon, of course, has taken substantial liberties with the story, though it's best not to give it away, as there's a good chance this midnight movie will get picked up for major release. John Sloss, the venerated seller of cinema, is repping Stuck and believes it's as good as any movie in the fest, and he may be right. It certainly has the potential to become a wide release, though it'll likely play the sick-and-twisted cult circuit; something about a dog finding a bone, you'll see. And when it does make its bow outside the fest circuit, expect the Mallard case to get a curtain call: Fort Worth figures prominently into the festival's official description of the movie:
Stuck is a departure from traditional horror genres, instead taking its inspiration from a true story in which a nurse near Fort Worth, Texas, struck a homeless man and fled the scene with the body sticking out from her car. Gordon has twisted this true story -- one that seems more like an urban legend - into a thriller with a Hitchcockian flare. A sharp and jagged edge of black humour runs through the script as Tom struggles in the broken windshield or fends off the nipping bites of a hungry pooch.
To quote a prosecutor involved in the Fort Worth case, it’s hard -- and frightening – to describe the kind of person who could leave a man to die in her windshield: “Maybe we’ve just redefined inhumanity here.” Stuck is a tale where the truth of the story is stranger than the fiction.
Fort Worth, you're stuck with this one. --Robert Wilonsky