Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Damned by Dawn (2010)

Damned if You Do...
Come on, come on... Take a!  Take another little piece of my heart, now ba-bay!!
It's interesting, the title of this flick.  It's so close to the alternate title  of The Evil Dead (Dead by Dawn), a movie that the filmmakers and distributors just love to compare it to.  Content wise, it has the same high energy visuals blasting throughout, just as Sam Raimi's movie did.  The filmmakers of DBD certainly get an A for effort.  They put in a lot of work to try and make this film LOOK foreboding.

The problem is... they overdid the doom and gloom, and unwittingly overburdened the audience (while at the same time, underwhelming them with lack of plot).
If I find that damn fog machine, I'm gonna trash it!
From the opening fog-enshrouded title sequence through to the very end of the movie, the screen is so filled with a deathly blue/gray pallor that we're sapped of any pleasurable feelings.  Every exterior sequence is absolutely drenched in fog, fog from a fog machine AND computer generated (computer generated fog is up there on my annoyance list, along with CG blood splatter and CG frost breath). Yes, building a foreboding feeling is a helluva tool for horror, but too much of it works against the emotional hinge of the story.

Claire and Paul (Renee Willner and Danny Alder) head to the country to visit Claire's sick grandmother (helluva good time to introduce the family to your new beau!).  Claire is entrusted with an funeral urn, by her grandmother (who already looks like she's been dead for weeks), with the eerie and vague notice that she'll "know what to do with it, when the time comes."  Well, the time comes when a wailing Banshee comes to take grandma away to the hereafter.  Apparently, grandma knew that her grandchild would screw up and kill the banshee, and then have to use the urn to fix up the entire mess.  Grandma -- always knows everything, she does.
Do you think I should sue those nincompoops down at the spa?
This may have been an interesting film, had the filmmakers put as much effort into the story and the performances, as they did the effects.  Director/Writer Brett Anstey expresses his love of the great Hammer Studio horror films (the footage of his old Super8/videos from his youth demonstrate his love of horror), and how he wanted his film to deliver the same feel. But he misses the mark.  The Hammer films were filled with vibrant colors and vibrant performances.  They were gruesome, but also sophisticated.  The performances were earnest, and the stories and direction innovative.  With Damned by Dawn there is an utter lack of any of these qualities.  The characters move through their environments with no aim or goal.  Claire enters the bedroom of her grandmother frequently, but for no other reason than to just happen upon another clue to the plot.  It's very much like watching someone play a video game.  The player walks the character to a room, they find a clue, they leave, they go find another clue... on and on, until you come to the confrontation with the adversary.  And then the clues and whatever else is found, is used in battle.

the plus side is some of the creature effects.  They are quite old school and clunky computer generated goblins, but the effect of them all flying after Claire, as she tries to escape in the climax, is really pretty creepy.  If I had only an inkling of worry about the character's well-being, I might've had more of a connection.

All mood and atmosphere, gore and goblins.  The only ghost here is the plot.

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