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DEADLINE
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Sean McConville

Starring:
Brittany Murphy
Thora Birch
Tammy Blanchard
Marc Blucas

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

Alice is a screenwriter in need of some 'me' time in the country in order to get rid of her writer's block. So, some producer friend of Alice's rents a large house in the country for her. Alice's plan is to isolate herself and get to writing, as she has a deadline to meet (I see what you did there). Alone in the house, Alice finds a suitcase packed with women's clothing and a stack of videotapes. The videotapes reveal the decaying relationship between Lucy and her obsessive husband David, the house's previous inhabitants. As Alice watches the tapes, she begins to hear and see weird things. Is Alice losing it, is it her recently released from jail ex-boyfriend, or did something bad go down in the house?

Is it good movie?

There's something to be said about irony. Life, it seems, is full of the stuff. No sooner had I completed the reviewing of DEADLINE that I learn of Brittany Murphy's passing, making this her last film. While many if not all of us want to go out on top, it's a shame that first and foremost Murphy passes away at such a young age, but also that possibly her last work was a film that suffers from a bad case of what her character in the film was hired to do.

The film sets things up nicely, albeit things are a bit of a stretch and derivative. The story of a writer sequestering themselves in order to finish their script but has weird shite go down sounds similar to A BLADE IN THE DARK. As well, why anyone would want to break their writer's block by spending time alone in an old house is beyond me. Still, the idea of having someone alone in an old Victorian house with a dark history to it has potential for fun psychological horror times. Adding to the potential is the fact that director Sean McConville focuses on the atmospheric eeriness of the house, and devotes a sizable chunk of the film towards establishing Alice's fragile mental faculties.

As an extension to the focus on the house, the cinematography by Ross Richardson deserves mention, coming in two parts, the first being the house. For me, Victorian houses are a mixture of beauty and creepiness, especially if you're alone. The stillness of the house in the film is a perfect example of that. The other half comes in the form of what's on the videotapes: An expectant couple where the wife becomes increasingly uncomfortable with her husband's obsessive and unobtrusive filming. It's all very organic-feeling.

The film, however, takes a nose dive about half an hour in. While McConville devotes a lot of time attempting to build suspense, there's just not much done with it, especially after you keep going back and doing the same thing (Alice watches tapes, hears noises, investigates) over and over again. Weak writing also hurts the film, be it weak lines (made even more apparent with the minescule amount of dialogue) or the eventual abandonment of character development. The film feels tired, and really doesn't result in much other than weak jump scares and some rather big plot holes for you to fume over (like the ex in the synopsis). Even the ending, while clever in its twist, demands a certain amount of disbelief from the viewer, requiring almost as much disbelief as Brittany Murphy's passing.

It's eerie and sad at the same time watching this film, knowing that Brittany Murphy is no longer with us. What's even more upsetting is the fact that Murphy's career ends on such a disappointing note with DEADLINE. Had the same amount of effort in building tension been devoted to the script, the film may have been better than initially perceived. Instead, DEADLINE suffers, along with the viewer and Murphy's fans.

Video / Audio

Video: DEADLINE is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks very good, except for glaring interlacing issues. Aside from that, there's good contrast and some great texture in the picture, which outweighs the jerkiness caused by the interlacing.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is certainly atmospheric, matching the film quite nicely. Dialogue is clear, as are the ambient effects throughout the track, and make use of all channels. Despite having a DTS logo on the back, there is no DTS track to speak of, unless the Dolby Digital 2.0 track magically turns into DTS quality.

The Extras

The only extra to speak of is some Behind The Scenes Footage, clocking in at just over 10 minutes. A mixture of on-set interviews talking your usual EPK stuff, as well as devoting time to footage detailing the nitty-gritty of shooting on location. Other than giving the director of photography the time they deserve, this is nothing to write home about.

There are also some Previews available, which amount to trailers for other films in addition to this one.

Last Call

DEADLINE is not one to write home about. All the great cinematography and attempts at building atmosphere are wasted on continual cycling of the tension-building without any payoff, and a weak script. Throw in a standard 10-minute BTS extra, and you have something that probably will appeal to the occasional horror movie viewer.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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