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First Look Studios
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/1/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/29/2009
Have you ever been watching America's Funniest Home Videos or, I don't know,Cloverfield, and thought, "Why would anyone be videotaping this?" If so, be prepared to say that a lot when you watch Deadline, a movie which appears to have been sponsored by the American Society for People who Still Use Camcorders that Require Videotape (you probably known them better as the ASPSUCRV).
Brittany Murphy, looking as if she needs some time in the country to recuperate, stars in Deadline as Alice, a screenwriter who needs some time in the country to recuperate. Her roommate, Rebecca (Tammy Blanchard), is going out of town, and Alice doesn't want to be alone in their apartment. So, a producer friend (we never learn anything else about this individual) rents a large house in the country for Alice. Rebecca drives her there, and Alice insists that she take the car -- her plan is to sequester herself there and write, as she has a deadline approaching. Alone in the house, Alice begins to search the rooms and finds a suitcase packed with women's clothing, and a stack of videotapes. As luck would have it, Alice has her camcorder with her, and she begins to watch the tapes. The recordings show a young couple, Lucy (Thora Birch) and David (Marc Blucas), who once lived in the house. David always has his camcorder with him and apparently records every conversation with Lucy. At the outset, they seem like a loving couple who have recently learned that Lucy is pregnant. However, as the tapes progress, David reveals himself to be quite jealous and paranoid. As Alice watches the tapes, she begins to hear strange noises in the house and she sees weird things. Did something awful happen in the house, and did that event leave something behind?
As I was watching Deadline, I was reminded of an Italian film with a similar plot, where a composer goes to a house to finish the score to a film (the movie, by the way, is Lamberto Bava's A Blade in the Dark). I then realized that beyond this similarity, Deadline brought to mind a European horror film, as it harkens back to the gothic haunted house and a character attempting to decide if what they are experiencing is real.
For the bulk of the film, Alice is the only character that we see, save for the tapes with Lucy and David. It takes a special film to sustain interest when there is only one main character. Unfortunately, Deadline is not this film. For the mid-section of the film, Writer/Director Sean McConville has made two big mistakes. First, there is very little story here. We watch Alice watch the tapes and then she goes and investigates odd noises. And then this happens again. And again. This section of the movie, where it is very important to hold the viewer's interest, is redundant and boring. And then we have the videotapes. Instead of simply having us watch a screen with Alice, we are taken "inside" the tapes, where we see Lucy and David interacting. At first, this is sort of interesting, but then we see that David never puts down his camcorder and it begins to get ludicrous. Even when he's arguing with Lucy, or worse, the camera is always firmly in his grasp. Was there a deleted scene where he glued it to his hand? These scenes are meant to make David seem unstable, but the obsessive videotaping makes them play as silly instead.
While watching the cyclical mid-section of the film, I was beginning to wonder if the movie would have a twist, because, let's face it, something had to happen eventually, and this seemed like the kind of film which would have a twist. And, of course, it did. I won't give anything away here, but it was one of those twists which made you question everything which had come before. This has certainly worked in other movies, but here, it was too little too late. At the end, you'll ask yourself two questions, "Was any of that real?" and "Do I care?". This isn't exactly a Fight Club-esque ending, but it's the kind which makes you realize what seemed like earlier plot-holes may not have been. But, I didn't want to watch the film a second time to find out.
To be sporting, I'll go ahead and say that Deadline should be an entry into our "I've Heard of these People, Why Haven't I Heard of this Movie?" series. However, none of the actors are particularly impressive here. Murphy is supposed to be playing someone who is exhausted, and she certainly looks the part, but it's difficult to feel anything for her character. Birch and Blucas' scenes have no energy either, and feel as if the rehearsals were taped.
The idea of someone venturing to an old dark house to get away and finding that they aren't alone certainly isn't a new one, but it could have worked. I love haunted house movies and I wanted to find something to like in Deadline. But, the film's dull nature made sure that the first part of the title was true.
Deadline is all about concealed weapons on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Firstlook Studios. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a very fine grain at times and no defects from the source material. The image is somewhat dark at times, but not overly so and the action is always visible. The colors look good, most notably reds. The image is well-balanced and the depth is very good in medium-to-long shots. The Disc contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The whole basis fo this track, other than to deliver dialogue, is to alert us to odd sounds in the house, and it does a pretty good job. The stereo effects are nicely done and accurately deliver off-screen sounds. The surround sound effects are good as well, but a tad weak. (I'm not sure if this is the track or the mix.) The subwoofer effects are fairly strong, most notably during the finale.
The only extra on the Deadline Blu-ray Disc is a "Behind the Scenes" (10 minutes) featurette. The piece contains comments from Director McConville and actors Birch, Blanchard, Birch, and Blucas. They discuss the story, characters, and the film's production. There is some on-set footage and the actor interviews were clearly done during the production.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long