Anchor Bay // 2009 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // March 17th, 2009
To bring down a building, you weaken the structure. Gravity will do the rest.
Sam Walczak (Mischa Barton, The O.C.) is eager to work in her family's demolition business and thrilled with her first assignment: supervising the tear down of a large apartment building. When she goes to prep the site, she discovers a handful of tenants still living there, and they are not happy about being displaced.
Sam also discovers that the building holds some disturbing secrets -- mainly, a mass murder some 15 years before, in which a whole slew of people were knocked off and entombed in the walls -- including the famous architect Matestrazza, who designed the place.
Sam gets most of her info from the Jimmy (Cameron Bright, Thank You for Smoking), the teenage son of the caretaker (Deborah Kara Unger, Silent Hill). Jimmy's father was among the victims, and Jimmy's dog was the pet of another victim. Jimmy believes the building is haunted and that the murdered architect still walks the halls.
Sam's not afraid of ghosts, but she is spooked by the remaining tenants, who speak cryptically of Matestrazza and seem to have something going on behind her back. As Sam soon discovers, it's not the dead she needs to fear, but those who were left behind.
Walled In is a semi-successful paranormal mystery thriller. It works especially well in the early scenes, when Sam is discovering the secrets of Matestrazza's building and encountering its quirky tenants. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner builds suspense without resorting to jump scares and quick cuts. The story unfolds through Sam's experience and Jimmy's tour guiding. As Sam finds out, this kid's got a few secrets of his own.
Then about the midway point, we learn the real secrets, and Walled In completely falls apart. What was once a twisty mystery becomes a routine resilient heroine adventure, silly and devoid of logic or suspense. All the build up of the first half of the film goes out the window; the second half is like a separate movie altogether, and not an especially compelling one.
Paquet-Brenner makes great use of the set, and as long as we are in the building, things remain intriguingly off-kilter and edgy. Unfortunately, besides an incredibly lame plot turn, the second half of the film gives us much less of the building, and therefore, much less to look at. Truly a pity.
Walled In is based on a book by Serge Brussolo. I haven't read the book, but I've checked out some reviews, and it seems to have some sophisticated themes and ideas that the film batters about but doesn't follow up -- the psychology and the symbiosis between constructing and destructing, and the iconization of brick and mortar, for instance. Rather than parrying such sophisticated conceits, we get a schoolboy crush gone bad and some mild bloodletting.
Barton does fine with her role, even if it gets a little annoying to hear every character comment on how unusual it is for such a young, lovely woman to be a demolitionist. Unger and Bright offer good support as the creepy mother and son.
The disc looks and sounds just fine. Extras consist of a trailer and an unremarkable and puffy "making of" featurette.
Walled In could have been an intelligent, challenging, and spooky experience that touched on objectivism and aesthetic immortality while unspooling its ghostly tale; instead, it cops out and becomes a simple genre exercise.
Run of the mill, and guilty, too.
Review content copyright © 2009 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site