Dead Calling DVD: Review By Dodd

A decent horror film premise with a talented cast of familiar faces
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
A decent horror film premise with a talented cast of familiar faces
The film simply drags due to its mediocrity
This week I have been delving deep into a pile of straight-to-video horror films. What I have found is that most of them are viciously violent beyond comprehension and lack cohesion. What ever happened to the B-horror films that were slightly cheesy yet still told fascinating stories? (The Puppet Master films anyone?). A Dead Calling, a recent video release from Lion's Gate, is a flick that steers away from excessive gore and lousy acting, and actually attempts to tell a scary story. Is it really bone-chilling as it intends to be? Not exactly. But it takes a decent stab at horror and mildly succeeds.

Rachel Beckwith (Alexandra Holden) is a hot shot New York City television reporter content with her successful career and caring fianc&#233. This all comes to an end when the disgruntled victim of a news story breaks into Rachel's apartment and murders her lover. To recover from the trauma, she heads home and takes a few months off with her small town parents (Sid Haig and Leslie Easterbrook).

Once at peace with the tragedy, Rachel agrees to go to work for a local news station. When investigating for a piece on local architecture, she discovers an old house that was once occupied by the offices of Dr. Frank Sullivan (Timothy Oman). It turns out that Dr. Sullivan was one twisted man who abused and murdered the innocent. It also just so happens that Dr. Sullivan is still alive and has escaped from the insane asylum.

You can probably imagine where this synopsis is heading. With Dr. Sullivan on the prowl, and Rachel seeing the ghosts of victims in the old house, she must figure out what the tortured spirits are trying to communicate and stop the evil Dr. Sullivan from butchering anymore victims.

A Dead Calling is respectable in the sense that it is an old-fashioned ghost story. The story of a haunted, abandoned doctor's office brings me back to the stories that I once exchanged as a young one around the campfire. However, Calling is missing something. Perhaps it is the fire, pitch back isolation, and proper storytelling. All of the ingredients are here: the abandoned building, the basement full of corpses, the intimidating surgical tools, etc. A Dead Calling has a promising premise on its hands. It just does not know the appropriate times to be edgy. When the audience is exposed to bloody murder sequences, it resembles a reenactment from Unsolved Mysteries.

The lead performances here are amazingly good. The young and beautiful Alexandra Holden of teen movie fame has filled the shoes of an adult role very well. As the protagonist, she clearly has the expertise to convey emotions properly in a horror film. Other roles include Sid Haig and Leslie Easterbrook as Rachel's parents and Bill Moseley as the local sheriff. Yes, this is a Devil's Rejects reunion, but not in the screamingly demented manner that horror fans would come to expect. The former members of the sadistic Firefly clan all play warm, nurturing characters. While it is difficult to place these actors as (gulp) good guys, they actually manage to pull it off successfully. Who says there isn't life after Devil's Rejects?
Audio Commentary

Director/writer/producer Mike Feifer flies solo for this commentary track. Feifer stumbles a bit and seems rather nervous, but he focuses the track solely on the filmmaking aspect. He even stresses the kick he got out of casting Haig, Easterbrook, and Moseley as normal, good characters, and how he hopes horror fans will notice. The track grows a little thin after the first few tracks, but fans of the film should truly appreciate it.

Features also include a photo gallery and trailers.
Widescreen. The picture quality of the film does not scream low budget. High quality film stock is used here. Even the visual effects are not noticeably cheap.
5.1 Dolby Surround. There is nothing to me that memorably sticks out about the musical score. However, this seems to be a clean track with zero glitches.
Standard DVD keep case. The front cover illustrates an angelic female with wings made out of skulls. This is actually a stunning piece of cover work.
A Dead Calling is a poor man's version of many ghost stories that have come before it. I would gauge it as rather mediocre, but it is still promising for being a theatrical reject. The basic premise is not bad, and it is great to see talented horror veterans working together. I would suggest this as a rental for fans of straight-to-video horror.

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