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STUDIO: Lion’s Gate
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
- director’s commentary
- stills gallery
The Amityville Horror meets The Lady In White.
Alexandra Holden, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Tim Oman.
“A long forgotten past…a much deadlier future.”
Rachel Beckwith (Alexandra Holden) is a hotshot New York TV news reporter. One night, an intruder breaks into the house she shares with her fiance; in the ensuing struggle, the groom-to-be buys it at the hands of the attacker. Distraught, Rachel moves across the country, back home to be with her parents as she tries to get over her ordeal.
Wherever John Connor goes, so goes the TX.
After several months of recovery, Rachel takes a reporting job at a small local television station. While investigating a long-abandoned house as part of a story she’s working on, Rachel starts having strange visions of things that happened in the home many years ago. She’s convinced that what’s happening in the house is real, but those close to her think she’s not over her fiance’s death yet. Good reporter that she is though, Rachel is determined to get to the bottom of the story and unearth the truth. But some townspeople want their secrets to remain buried in the past.
This is the setup for A Dead Calling, a suspense chiller with some supernatural elements. Horror fans will probably be intrigued by the casting of three Devil’s Rejects alumni: Sid Haig, Leslie Easterbrook, and Bill Moseley. Don’t get your hopes up too much, though: the threesome basically play straight roles here.
A Dead Calling tries to be an old-fashioned sort of ghost story, trading gory violence, spring-loaded cats, and hyperactive editing for mood, drama, and suspense. This is admirable, but A Dead Calling just isn’t a scary movie, although it certainly tries hard. The story is kind of interesting (if predictable) and had potential, but at the end it doesn’t add up to a whole lot, coming across as rather mild. A few scenes are fairly effective, but aren’t enough to make a difference.
Rachel is the first human female Arnie has had in his Den Of Loneliness.
The attempt to play it straight is noble, but A Dead Calling‘s writer/director, Michael Feifer, can’t help himself by the end of the movie, throwing in a rooftop showdown between Rachel and the story’s requisite loony (Tim Oman, who seems to be having fun in this); the only thing missing is the lightning flashing in the background.
There’s also a decent mid-movie plot twist, but it leads to some illogical decisions being made by Rachel; this self-proclaimed smart person does a couple of pretty dumb things in the last third of the film. Then again, she’s a blond in a horror flick, and everyone knows they never make the best decisions in times of crisis.
Some people bring a knife to a gunfight; Frank comes prepared for any eventuality.
Somewhat surprisingly, A Dead Calling‘s biggest strength is usually the biggest weakness of other low-budget scare fare: the acting. The performances in this movie are all solid, with Alexandra Holden coming across best: she does a good job conveying fear, uncertainty, and anguish, and she has some good dramatic scenes. She’s also quite pretty, which makes her scenes more watchable. As Rachel’s parents, Haig and Easterbrook make a believable married couple who are devoted to each other and to their daughter. Bill Moseley has the smallest part of “the big three,” but he’s fairly good too. Oman overacts a bit, but he’s the bad guy so he’s excused. The actors all get a passing grade; they just needed a better movie to star in.
A Dead Calling is a low-budget movie, but the film-makers do a fine job of hiding their monetary limitations (although one scene in a moving car obviously never took place near a real road). For its low cost, the movie doesn’t look or feel like your typical straight-to-video cheapie, even though that’s exactly what it is.
"She likes it! Hey Rachel!"
A Dead Calling isn’t bloody, violent or kinetic enough for the gorehounds and fans of “modern” horror, and it’s not frightening enough for anyone else. The acting is better than it should be and the story’s serviceable, but that’s not reason enough to whole-heartedly recommend this movie.
The cover art for A Dead Calling is quite eye-catching, which will probably get a few people to grab it off the $1 shelf at their local DVD rental emporium. The artwork and design are very nice, and make the movie look more inviting and classy than it really is. Kudos to the people who did the packaging; they earned their pay, even though they mis-identify a character in the descriptive blurb on the back of the box.
A Dead Calling‘s picture quality is okay: the movie – which was shot entirely with relatively inexpensive digital cameras – looks better than lots of other straight-to-DVD releases, although some of the night scenes are a little too dark from time to time.
When the moon is full, the beast within stirs.
Audio is nothing special, but it works, with 5.1 digital surround and 2.0 stereo options. Spanish subtitles are also available.
Writer/director/producer Michael Feifer provides an audio commentary track, which was recorded before A Dead Calling actually had a finalized title (originally it was named The Calling). He provides trivia on the various locations used in the movie, insight on shooting films on a limited budget, details on writing A Dead Calling‘s script (which was completed in 2 ½ days), and how certain scenes and shots were captured. Feifer also points out some flubs, and he praises his actors and crew quite a bit, spreading the credit around. It’s a decent track.
On a low-budget film, corners have to be cut; here, props and catering share the same table.
One of the other bonus features on the disc is a photo gallery consisting of 20 photos, most of them taken on the set of the movie.
There are a handful of trailers as well: one for A Dead Calling, plus others for upcoming Lion’s Gate films.
5 out of 10