Deadline (2009) [Blu-ray]
|Genre(s): Horror / Thriller|
|First Look Studios || R - 89 minutes - $29.98 || December 1, 2009|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-12-03|
Writer(s): Sean McConville (written by)
Cast: Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch, Tammy Blanchard, Marcus Blucas
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In the latest in the line of direct-to-video horror-thrillers, Deadline pits two actresses who were on the rise in the late 90s/early 2000s, only to falter and rely on half-assed screenplays. Thora Birch made a splash in American Beauty holding her own as Kevin Spacey’s teenager daughter while Brittany Murphy was fantastic in Don’t Say a Word opposite Michael Douglas. However, neither actress has really risen to those lofty levels taking on some decent supporting roles (Birch in Ghost World and Murphy in 8 Mile), before starring in some fairly lousy direct-to-video entries including The Ramen Girl and the incredibly awful Train.
The so called story is about screenwriter Alice Evans (BRITTANY MURPHY) is getting over a violently abusive relationship. Her roommate/partner, Rebecca (TAMMY BLANCHARD), has to leave town and Alice doesn’t feel safe in their apartment, so she uses her connections with a producer to stay for a week at a vacant mansion out in the middle of nowhere. Making matters even more ridiculous, despite offering to take a taxi to the airport by Rebecca, Alice insists on her taking the car and thus only transportation out. Such an utterly ridiculous plot device to keep her on the property... surely nothing will happen.
Alone in the creepy mansion, she begins seeing and hearing things and when she stumbles upon a collection of video tapes – after following a trail of wet footprints that don’t seem to bother her –, she sees into the lives of a couple that lived there years earlier. Newlyweds Lucy (THORA BIRCH) and David Woods (MARC BLUCAS) is seemingly a loving couple but as Alice digs deeper and watches each tape, David’s obsession with Lucy’s possible infedlity, despite being pregnant, grows and he becomes increasingly more violent. Now Alice begins to believe she is being haunted by Lucy’s ghost while also dealing with her own demons including the violent ex-boyfriend who tried to kill her.
On the surface, Deadline sounds like a half-way decent little horror-thriller unfortunately, and in many ways ironically, the screenplay flounders with a story that never quite connects and characters that we neither know nor care about. It is one screenplay, by Sean McConville (who also directed), that could’ve used an extra draft to smooth things out.
This isn’t to say the cast was anything stellar. As I already laid out, the film stars a couple actresses who seemed to have an interesting indie career going for them only to bottom out with a couple cheap direct-to-video flicks. While Thora Birch got more to do having to act opposite Marc Blucas – who portrays a Jack Nicholson decent into madness like an obnoxious and annoying puppy than a jealous psychopath –, poor Brittany Murphy, outside of the first 15-minutes, walks around the mansion with a scared/confused/worried/crazy look on her face being surprisingly cool for a gal who sees her laptop screen bleed. If this weren’t a movie, I’d call a cab, huddle in the corner in the fetal position and high tail it outta there when it arrived. Instead, Alice stoically decides to stay to try and uncover what happened in the house. At least she wanted to know as I could’ve really cared less.
The other issue I had with the movie is, forget the fact it’s not that scary or at least intriguing, but it has no ambience or tone. Yes, they filmed inside a classic Louisana plantation mansion but being old and hearing creaky doors in the distance makes a good horror film not. I swear, after Alice’s arrival we spend a good portion of the time hearing doors creak or the normal house settling noises and that’s supposed to set the mood?
As I said, Deadline had a kernel of a good idea but it was inadequately written and poorly executed from the direction to the cast, though in fairness to Murphy and Thorp, I highly doubt A-list actresses could’ve done any better.
Making Deadline (10:13) – The lone feature is just filled with your typical interviews with the cast and crew about the ideas brought about and how the project came to be.
It should be noted that something as simple as scene selection is not available on the disc even though the DVD does have it...
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
The best I can say for this 1080p high def transfer is it’s a little uneven. At times black levels could look very good while other scenes it’s a little too light. Detail levels are pretty good with the daylight scenes exposing some general film grain but still good skin tones while the night scenes seemed to be void of pixilation.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track almost sounded like a standard Dolby Surround track. I noticed dialogue, even taking place on screen in a smaller room, was coming out of the rear channels as well as the center channel. The distribution of other sounds was OK but it didn’t have the depth I’ve come to expect from Blu-ray audio.
Deadline, although having an interesting foundation of a horror-thriller, never really capitalizes on it. The cast is OK if only the fact they didn’t have much to work with. I am a little confused as to why First Look decided to release this on Blu-ray because the audio and picture aren’t all that spectacular and the oddly left off something simple as a scene selection option.