Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dead Souls - Scream Factory Blu-ray Review

Dead Souls

Director: Colin Theys
Writer: John Doolan, Michael Laimo (novel) - Yes, it's pronounced Lame-O
Stars: Jesse James, Magda Apanowicz, Bill Moseley, Geraldine Hughes
Year: 2012
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Studio: Scream Factory
Region: A

As we begin, a preacher named Benjamin Conroy (J.H. Torrance Downes) works away in his barn while his wife (Elizabeth Irene) vomits violently in a bathroom inside the house. His daughter Elizabeth (Bridget Megan Clark) walks around her room with a walkman while his oldest son Daniel (Kyle Donnery) sits quietly in his room. His one year old son Bryan is also home, but he isn't doing shit, because he's one. After finishing some wood work Benjamin walks out of the barn towards a barking dog and without hesitation beats the dog to death with a shovel. He then proceeds to make his way into the house where he systematically kills his entire family with no remorse, excluding the one year old who Daniel was able to hide before the massacre occurred.

Back to the barn, he drags all of the bodies in and nails them to crosses. Except for the dog, that would be stupid. A postmortem crucifixion seems pretty pointless, but that doesn't stop him from performing 3 of them on his family members. Once the three are properly nailed up he ties himself to another cross (he bought in bulk) with a rope around his waste before driving a nail into his left hand. To nail his other hand up he's driven the right side nail through the cross facing the opposite direction, so he is able to just slam his right hand against the nail, completing his self crucifixion just as the police show up.

17 years later, Bryan, now named Johnny Petrie (Jesse James) is a well adjusted student who lives with his very strict and religious adoptive mother (Geraldine Hughes). On his 18th birthday he receives an strange letter notifying him that he's the next of kin to someone named Benjamin Conroy and that he will inherit a farmhouse now that he's reached adulthood.

Johnny's mom is understandably hesitant to tell him the truth about his psychotic patriarch, and disobeying his mother's wishes he heads to the town to see his new house and sign papers to sell it. It turns out Johnny has made a huge mistake returning to a home he doesn't remember. Within the first 24 hours he encounters violent drunks, a pushy real estate agent, a zombie dog, some occasional ghosts, and an attractive well-dressed squatter (). To go any further into the plot will spoil the fun, but I will say Bill Moseley eventually shows up and several people hit various dogs with shovels before a action packed and bloody finale.

Dead Souls is a Chiller Network original film directed by Colin Theys that ended up being better than expected. It's not great, or even particularly good, but as far as modern made for TV horror movies go I've seen much worse. It's certainly better the neverending glut of giant CGI monster rubbish that SyFy regularly churns out at least. Despite some cheese dick acting from a few supporting characters the acting from the leads is generally good, the script - based on Michael Laimo's novel - is decent (though rather confusing at times) and the disgustingly dilapidated farmhouse is effectively creepy - the atmosphere it provides helps the film considerably. The problem is that after the intense and brutal opening there's just so little action of any kind going on for so much of the movie most will probably find it hard to pay the film their full attention all the way through. There's 15 minutes of intensity at the beginning, followed by a full hour of a couple of people in a house just walking around. While there are a few creepy bits here and there they're just a bit too few and far between to elevate the film above mediocrity. However things do manage to pick up again for a fairly satisfactory conclusion, though the ending gets so twisty that it nearly twists itself right out of coherence.

This was a TV movie, so zero dice on anything particularly sexual. Sexy squatter Emma wears a tight shirt at one point, but there's nothing more to see here. Move along.

Did I mention the shovel kills? After Ben kills the dog with a shovel, we then witness a 1-2-3 punch of  a toilet bowl drowning, a throat slashing and a hammer smashed face before several crucifixions. After the kill happy opening things slow down considerably and for the majority of the rest of the running time the frights are of the mostly ghostly variety. They do amp up gore in the final few minutes with a pitchfork kill and several eyeballectomies.

Things to watch for:
Canine Shovel Kill
Self Crucification
Canine Shovel Kill x2
Human Shovel Kill - Jesus, was this shovel a producer or something? It gets more screen time than some of the actors.
"Murder Victim" High Five


The Disc:

The commentary on this disc is very much worth a listen. It reminds me a bit of the legendary Cannibal The Musical track. While not nearly as classic as the Cannibal commentary, it is a very funny and brutally honest track from three guys who are not at all concerned with offending some of the people who worked on the film. Also included on the disc is a set tour of the creepy farmhouse and about 6 minutes of bloopers.What I learned from these bloopers? Dogs and birds are idiots, don't hire them as actors in your movie.

Dead Souls sticks out from the rest of the Scream Factory line which has up to this point consisted of classic horror from the 70's and 80's. While it is certainly not destined to be a classic, I still found it to be a good way to kill an hour and a half. This Scream release contains 7 additional minutes of footage not seen in the original broadcast, plus a few entertaining bonus features, including a rather hilarious commentary track that is better than the film that's being commented on. I can't give the release a "Buy It" recommendation, but it's definitely worth a rental at least. I'd probably give the movie a 5.5, maybe a 6. The commentary bumps the disc up to a solid 6.5.

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