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Film / Cruel and Unusual

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In this surreal Canadian film, a man named Edgar finds himself in a strange facility where he is told he's dead and has been condemned for murdering his wife, which he must come to terms with by reliving it before moving on. He vehemently denies murdering her, but finds no one believes him and continually has to go back through his memory of what happened.


This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Edgar kills Maylon by pressing down onto her while struggling to grab the phone with his arm against her throat, strangling her.
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  • The Alcoholic: Doris was this while alive, so much that at times she couldn't get herself out of bed. It eventually led to her suicide.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Murdering both your parents, your own children, killing yourself because you feel you're a burden upon your family and accidentally killing your wife (who had also deliberately poisoned you) all receive the exact same punishment in the afterlife.
  • All Just a Dream: Discussed by Edgar early on, who says he'd like to believe that the afterlife is just a nightmare, but knows it's too real for that to be true.
  • The Atoner: Edgar, after he finally realizes his sins.
  • Clear My Name: Edgar is certain he didn't murder his wife, and that there has been some mistake, desperately trying to convince the authorities in the afterlife of this.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Edgar didn't kill his wife intentionally, but this is still treated as being murder. Finally, Edgar is sent back to the afterlife for killing himself, but this was to save Doris and Maylon. Because he feels proud of that, it's implied he may never move on. Of course, just look at the title...
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  • Domestic Abuse: Edgar is slowly revealed to have controlled his wife's life almost completely, stopping her from working or having her own bank account, and constantly being paranoid that she'd leave him or was having affairs. It's also then implied that she's stuck with him if she wants to stay in the country, as her residence there appears to depend upon their marriage. She poisoned him due to feeling it was the only way to escape.
  • Gratuitous Latin: In the afterlife, the condemned have tattoos on their arms which show who they killed...in Latin. Edgar's reads "Uxor" (wife), and Doris' "Ego" (I).
  • Groin Attack: The facilitator rips Julien's testicles off using telekinesis after he tries to intercede with her on Edgar's behalf when he first arrives. Of course, when next he's seen there's no sign anything happened, him being dead after all.
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  • Flashback: The rooms Edgar and the other people enter trigger this, making them relive what they did to be condemned.
  • Heel Realization: Edgar realizes after living through Maylon and her son's memories that he really was an abusive asshole to them. It spurs him to make up for this.
  • Heroic Suicide: Edgar takes Doris' place, thus sparing not only her but Maylon from condemnation in the afterlife.
  • How We Got Here: The film gradually shows what led up to Edgar being in the afterlife, reliving his memories every time he enters a certain room.
  • Ironic Hell: In the afterlife murderers are forced to continually relive their crime so they come to terms with it. Some of them have already been doing this for decades without success.
  • Mundane Afterlife: The afterlife takes a form very reminiscent of a psychiatric hospital, with group therapy sessions led by facilitators over television screens.
  • The Nothing After Death: Doris believed when she died there would be just blackness and silence, but instead has been stuck reliving her suicide for decades in the afterlife.
  • Off on a Technicality: Edgar is outraged when some of the other condemned suggest that, just because she died first, Maylon wasn't condemned for his murder while he was for killing her.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Maylon dying at Edgar's hand sets off the plot as he's condemned in the afterlife as a murderer for it, forced to relive the events.
  • Pride: This seems to be what's holding some of the condemned back, such as Julien, who refuses to let the authorities see him break.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: The authorities in the afterlife seem to imply it is this, and that if the condemned accept their sins they can move on. However, only Doris is seen to do this, solely because Edgar took her place.
  • Self-Made Orphan: William, who murdered both his parents. It's not clear why he did it either.
  • Suicide for Others' Happiness: Doris believed she was just a burden to her family, being an alcoholic that could barely function, so she hanged herself. Instead it made her family suffer greatly (one of her daughters blamed herself) and leaves Doris still reliving the suicide in the afterlife decades after this.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: Doris is condemned as a murderer for hanging herself. The tattoo on her arm she has in the afterlife says "Ego", showing that she is her own victim (along with her family).
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Maylon, who poisoned Edgar so she could escape the complete control he had over her life.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Julien drowned his children to punish their mother for something.
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