Pizza has never been so depressing for Judge Daryl Loomis.
Some dreams do more than haunt.
Josh (Brendan Fehr, Final Destination) spends his days walking the railroad tracks and working in a pizza joint with a rail car facade. Obsessed with trains and very sad, this is the tenth anniversary of the death of his girlfriend, who was killed when a train hit the car she was riding in. It's also the weekend of his ten year high school reunion, and his old best friend Rusty (Chad Lindberg, I Spit on Your Grave (2010)) is back in town to convince him to go. Things get weird when a new waitress named Amelia (Tania Raymonde, Wild Cherry) is hired at the restaurant about the same time he starts seeing visions of his girlfriend. Rusty wants him to get on with his life and forget the past, but Amelia is more than she appears, and she's offering a seductive but dangerous option.
Does that sound convoluted to you? Me too, and that's what we have in The Haunting of Amelia: a mess of a supernatural drama that features an attractive cast, but poor performances and a pointless story. The film is depressing to boot, with its emphasis on one man unable to move on from the death of his love. It sucks, I'm sure, but his insistence on staying in the one place that constantly reminds him of his sorrow is less than charming. Josh comes off as pathetic, so it seems quite unlikely the gorgeous Amelia would take a shine to him, until it becomes patently obvious why she's there, which takes only a few minutes. It doesn't get better when Josh's old buddy shows up. While he's put up as the success story for having left town, he's an immature jackass who is anything but admirable. This isn't a trio you want to hang out with for ninety minutes, but there aren't any real supporting parts to give us a rest. The film is all banal characters and flat performances that left me very cold.
Maybe if the story was less telegraphed I'd have an easier time forgiving the actors' shortcomings. From the moment you notice, though, that Amelia only appears on camera when Josh is by himself, any attempts at twists just feel false. There's even a brief mention that Amelia and Rusty are working together in some sort of conspiracy, but the idea is forgotten moments after its mention. After numerous little attempts to throw us off track, we are left with what we thought from the beginning, in an ending that combines past and present in baffling ways and leaves you thankful that the whole thing is over.
The Haunting of Amelia is generally pretty bad, but writer/director A.D. Calvo actually shows a lot of cinematic skill in his debut feature film. His ability to draw quality performances may be in question, but the film looks great. It's colorful and stocked with lovely nature footage, full of dense forests and atmospheric fog. His brief attempts to introduce thrills into the story aren't effective, but they're moody interludes. I wish more of the film was like this, but the director is unfortunately obsessed with his characters.
The DVD from MTI is acceptable, if unremarkable. It's a bare bones package with a solid audio/visual presentation, but no supplements. The image looks as good as you could expect for an independent production, with the nicely photographed natural setting looking especially crisp. The colors look good and flesh tones are correct; overall, it looks great. The surround mix is strong, with good separation in the rear channels, while the stereo presentation is perfectly acceptable. The only extra is a trailer.
A questionable concept, poor performances, and a nonsensical plot make for a pretty forgettable picture. A.D. Calvo directs better than he writes, and the film looks nice, but The Haunting of Amelia is otherwise a dull film.
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