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Deadline (2009)

  Tags: Brittany Murphy, Deadline, DVD, Enso Entertainment, Films In Motion, First Look Studios, ghosts, haunting, KRU Studio, Marc Blucas, psychological, Sean McConville, Tammy Blanchard, Thora Birch, thriller, writer

Your rating: None Average: 5.7 (3 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 
6

deadline.jpg
Rating #: 
6/10
Director: 
Sean McConville
Runtime: 
89 minutes
Cast: 
Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch, Tammy Blanchard, Marc Blucas


Oh the tragic life of Brittany Murphy.  Not only did she die way before her time, but her once promising film career had been reduced to a string of dismissible straight to video indies and an awful Asylum produced SyFy spectacle (how I loathe thee, Megafault).  Deadline was a film that I blind bought a few months back when it first came out because A.) it was on sale, and B.) I’ve always had a soft spot for Ms. Murphy…or should I say a hard spot.  After her untimely passing I remembered the movie was sitting on the shelf and finally decided to pop it in.  While it walks a fine line between haunted house film and melodramatic Lifetime movie, Deadline has a professional, fluid style that helps elevate it into a just slightly above average ghost flick.

Murphy plays Alice,  a screenwriter (that may or may not be playing a game of scissors with her too close for comfort personal assistant) who has a deadline fast approaching.  Recovering from a psychologically damaging event with an ex boyfriend, Alice takes up residence in an old plantation home where she can write in peace.  After a little tinker around the old household, she discovers a box full of tapes recorded by the home’s previous inhabitants, Lucy and David.  Through these tapes she witnesses the couple’s relationship deteriorate into jealousy and desperation and it isn’t long before she becomes haunted by what may be the royally pissed off spirit of Lucy.

Writer/Director Sean McConville wisely chose a more classic approach to telling his ghost story.  There’s a lot of reliance on creaking floor boards and disembodied whispers as opposed to an overabundance of jump scares and CGI ghosts.  The foreboding atmosphere was increased by the always moving camera.  In what seemed like never ending dolly shots, the picture was always moving and helped prevent the long, tension building scenes from becoming too much of a snore.

Unfortunately, not every choice by the director was made beneficial to my viewing experience.  There were two effects enhanced jump scares that felt completely out of place and did nothing for the film except distract from the established style.  The easiest way to make a low budget film within a timely fashion is to have the least amount of locations possible which I’m sure is why, despite Alice being in a behemoth of a mansion, she rarely ventures away from three main rooms.  Cinematographer Ross Richardson did a commendable job of setting up the shots in a way that you wouldn’t be sick to death of seeing the same rooms over and over again, but it still felt redundant by the end.  In the third act we finally leave the house and explore some of the grounds outside which were much more visually interesting and really gave them a chance to amp up the lighting style.  Too bad more of the movie couldn’t take place in this location.

McConville definitely shows promise as a director, but his writing skills are seriously lacking.  From the description on the back cover I knew exactly how the resolution of the film would play out, and I’m sure you will as well.  I was hoping that there would be an last minute twist to prove me wrong, but alas there was no such revelation.  The story of Lucy and David was way too movie-of-the-week for my tastes with David's descent into Ike Turner was both rushed and implausible.

Thora Birch continues to dabble within our beloved genre with mixed results, but comes off rather unscathed as Lucy.  She doesn’t have the strongest material to work with, but does an adequate job none the less.  Marc Blucas as her husband David doesn’t do as well.  Not only does he have the most underwritten character, but he’s just not that good of an actor.  All my fellow Buffy fans will remember him in season five as Buffy’s most hated boyfriend, Riley.  He was about as fun as colonoscopy.  Well, he sadly hasn’t improved from his days at U.C. Sunnydale.  As for Ms. Murphy, she spends most of her screen time alone in the house and does a serviceable job of keeping the audience’s attention throughout the slow burning film.  It’s not her greatest performance by any means, but she has enough on-screen presence and charisma to carry the material.

While the story suffers from a serious lack of originality, the movie as a whole is saved by a strong direction style that relies more on old school haunted house scares to bring us a slightly better than expected thriller deserving of a low end six rating.  While there’s nothing overtly outstanding about the film, there’s also nothing strikingly repugnant about it either.  If nothing else, it’s harmlessly entertaining.

Posted on January 9, 2010 - 9:06pm | Johnny D

 

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