A DEAD CALLING
Directed by Michael Feifer
Produced by Michael Feifer
Written by Michael Feifer
Director of Photograpy Hank Baumert
Music by Glen Morrisette
Cast: Alexandra Holden, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Leslie Easterbrook, John Burke
2006/90 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lionsgate DVD
Thanks to the success of films such as THE SIXTH SENSE, SE7EN, and FIGHT CLUB, twist endings are very much in vogue today. (To the point that they are becoming very cliched.) Audiences are now primed for the film to take a sudden turn at or near the conclusion. These turns typically involve a revelation of a plot device which changes the meaning or effect of the film. But, have you ever seen a movie where the entire film takes a turn and nearly turns into a completely different film? That's what takes place in the oddly titled direct-to-video entry A DEAD CALLING.
A DEAD CALLING introduces us to Rachel Beckwith (Alexandra Holden), a TV reporter who lives in New York City. When a burglar stabs and kills her boyfriend, the traumatized Rachel moves back to her hometown to live with her parents, George (Sid Haig) and Marge (Leslie Easterbrook). As Rachel attempts to put her life back together, she takes a job at the local TV station, under the direction of sympathetic boss, Stephen (John Burke). They decide that her first assignment should be a relatively simple one, so she decides to profile the old houses of the town. While checking out one such house, Rachel witnesses a man attacking a woman. Shaken, but undeterred, she returns to the house and meets a newspaper reporter (Mike Korich) who is then murdered. She reports this event to the police, but Chief Murken (Bill Moseley) finds no evidence of a crime.
Rachel's parents, along with Stephen, fear that Rachel is still suffering the effects of her boyfriend's death. However, Rachel knows what she saw and she begins to investigate the history of the house. She learns that a Dr. Sullivan (Timothy Oman) had lived in the house and was accused of some heinous crimes. As Rachel gets closer to the truth, the supernatural events in the house increase and, to make matters worse, a killer is on the loose.
I'm a sucker for a good ghost story and this is one sub-genre which I feel is really ignored these days. So, I was hoping that A DEAD CALLING would be at the very least an entertaining entry into the ghost story field. The problem is that despite all evidence to the contrary, A DEAD CALLING really isn't about ghosts, although they do appear in the movie.
In fact, I'm finding it difficult to categorize A DEAD CALLING. Again, there are ghosts in the film, but they appear sporadically, and only have a very minor role in the story. If anything, the first half of the movie is more of a psychological thriller, where we watch Rachel attempt to deal with her trauma and wonder if she's having a nervous breakdown. And then, at the 43-minute mark, everything changes. A serial killer is set loose in the film and the focus shifts from ghosts to slashings. Not only does this change the tone of the film (especially when the killer murders a random character), it also takes the story down a new path. The killer's presence does meld with the first half of the story and everything gels (somewhat) at the end, but there's still that feeling that A DEAD CALLING has stopped and another movie has began. I found the shift especially confusing because I really wanted the supernatural aspects of the movie to dominate the story. The ghosts do make another appearance at the end, but by that time, it's too late.
So, A DEAD CALLING is like getting two movies in one. Is that a bad thing? Well, here is pretty much is, as neither movie is very interesting. The first 43-minutes offer some intriguing moments, but again, too much emphasis is placed on Rachel and her investigation and not enough on the ghosts. Once the killer is introduced, the movie resembles any other murderer on the loose moments. The movie isn't terrible as much as it's simply bleh, but it's made watchable thanks to its cast. Holden is probably still best known as Ross' girlfriend from "Friends" and she's likable in the lead, as is John Burke. The aspect which will appeal most to horror fans is seeing THE DEVIL'S REJECTS alums Haig, Moseley, and Easterbrook all playing sympathetic roles.
The cover art for the A DEAD CALLING DVD will make you think that the movie is about possessed angels, (!?!?) but the description suggests a ghost story...with a killer involved. The results should have been a bigger mess than it actually is, but writer/director/producer Michael Feifer is able to keep things in check and keep the movie from spiraling completely out of control.
A DEAD CALLING gets a busy signal on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie was shot on digital video (with 720 resolution) and looks pretty good. Because of the source material, there is virtually no grain on the image. The colors look good, especially primary tones and the image is never overly dark. However, one thing about the picture quality which leaps off of the screen is the amount of soft focus used for the close-ups of Alexandra Holden. It looks as if Vaseline were smeared on the lens and these shots are edited together with normal looking shots, creating a very annoying effect. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides dialogue which is clear for the most part, although certain scenes sounded a bit muffled. The stereo effects are fine, and the surround sound comes into play during the shock sequences. There is a serviceable amount of subwoofer action as well.
The A DEAD CALLING DVD has a few special features. Writer/director/producer Michael Feifer provides an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the movie. This is actually an interesting talk as Feifer adds some scene-specific comments while talking at length about the technical aspects of making a low-budget shot-on-video movie, going as far as to recommend particular cameras! But, he doesn't spend enough time talking about the story or where the ideas came from. The DVD also contains a STILL GALLERY and a TRAILER for the movie.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©