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Case Number 10646

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A Dead Calling

Lionsgate // 2006 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 19th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson's house is haunted. Or maybe it's the dishwasher running. Either way, it's @#$%*$# scary.

The Charge

His kiss is a long forgotten past…a much deadlier future.

Opening Statement

Does this bargain-basement ghost story have enough ectoplasm in it to earn your valuable 90 minutes?

Facts of the Case

Rachel Beckwith (Alexandra Holden) is a reporter for a local paper, looking for a fresh start in her home town after a personal tragedy. She's shacking up with her parents and trying to piece her journalistic career back together, which leads her to the Sullivan house, a place soaked in local lore. Frank Sullivan (Tim Oman), also known as "The Butcher," went crazy one night and murdered his entire family. He was caught, but subsequently escaped custody; now he's back in town causing trouble.

Rachel finds herself in the middle of that trouble as she tries to peel back the mystery surrounding the murder and come to grips with the fact that lately she's been besieged by ghosts. When she walks through the house, apparitions of the slain family members pop up, appealing to Rachel to place their spirits at rest.

The Evidence

After you've seen so many of these direct-to-DVD thriller/horror/suspense films, like I have, it takes a lot to pump up the interest. While there's nothing blatantly wrong with A Dead Calling I fear that it will just ebb away into the abyss of forgettable low-budget chillers.

Though I didn't find the total package compelling enough to earn big kudos, A Dead Calling was far from a spectral turd. Writer/director Michael Feifer, an accomplished producer of skin flicks, did a decent job with this paranormal mystery, helped out by some surprisingly strong acting. The film moves along fairly well, despite getting tripped up toward the end with some interminable shoehorned monologues; while the mystery portion of the narrative appears to have been culled from the scripts of a 1,000 Lifetime original movies (e.g, there's a big revelation about the protagonist's true kinship that won't surprise you if you have more than one functioning brain hemisphere), the story didn't hurt my brain with its awfulness.

The dialogue, well that's another story. Alexandra Holden really did do a fine job as the story's heroine and delivered her lines with gusto and depth, but occasionally she was saddled with some lame prose, specifically during a heart-to-heart with her parents ("There's someone else's DNA inside me!") or the requisite primal Amazonian shout of female kick-assitude when she squares off with the film's heavy at the end. The too-long expository pieces of dialogue really drag, populated by lots of clichés and a smattering of overacting, all of which are present in the finale to slow down the big ending significantly.

How about them ghosts? This isn't a jump-scare-happy ghost movie like The Grudge or The Ring, as our apparitions are content with appearing nice and easy-like and engage in conversation. They're not creepy-looking, either, taking the form of an attractive blonde woman (actually the director's wife), for example. Don't go in expecting a chiller: A Dead Calling is a supernatural mystery

Probably the biggest strike against a recommendation of the DVD is the video quality. Not every filmmaker can afford state-of-the-art equipment, and I understand that, but there are moments throughout—specifically during darker scenes—where the graininess and pixel-laden visuals overwhelm what's happening on screen. Big shame. For extras, Michael Feifer delivers an incisive audio commentary and there's a still gallery.

Closing Statement

This is a decent film, but nothing to get real excited about. Poor video quality hurts.

The Verdict

The accused is sent back to the Ouija board.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 65
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Acting: 75
Story: 70
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Mystery
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Director's Commentary
• Trailers


• IMDb

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