Halloween Hangover continues on The Bits today with Tim's look at Michael Winner's The Sentinel (1977) on Blu-ray http://t.co/WoH2lC0UVm
Release Date(s)2012 (June 25, 2013)
Possible Spoilers Ahead
Dead Souls premiered on the Chiller network in October of 2012 and Scream Factory recently acquired the rights to release it on Blu-ray and DVD, so here we are. It’s actually the first title in the Scream Factory line-up so far that’s a modern horror film and not a cult classic… yet.
I’ll be completely honest here though and admit that I liked this movie much more than I expected to. One of the main reasons why is because it isn’t chock full of jump scares for once in a horror film. It has atmosphere and handles the idea of a ghost story better than many of its theatrical contemporaries. And the violence in the movie, while gory, does make you fear for the lead characters’ fates a bit more. The characters are also set up fairly well. While we’ve seen these types of stories with these types of characters many times over, it felt a bit refreshing because it seemed to have a bit of intelligence and a better craft behind it. It’s not about the creepy things that pop out of the closet, or the chair that inexplicably moves in a static room. You won’t find that crap here. The material is execution-dependent and I think this team of people did a fairly good job with the material given to them.
Things aren’t all wine and roses though. The problems with the film lie within its pace and story. It feels like there are many pieces missing from the puzzle. The squatter, for instance, remains a mystery. We never really find anything out about her. That’s not so much a complaint on my part as it is an observation because with a horror film that has quite a bit of clichés like this one has, it’s good to see them ditch a character’s backstory and focus on the story at hand instead. We don’t need to know everything about everybody, and they don’t necessarily have to have strong ties to the plot. They just need to have motivation and something to do. It’s ultimately about our lead, Johnny, and what’s going on with him. Another piece of information missing is the possession aspects of the story. Suddenly, anyone who’s dead can become host to one of the dead family members and the only way to kill them, is to hammer a nail into them. That bit of information is muddled in the final film and you have to do some guesswork along the way. Another issue I had was that the main expository scene in the movie really spits out a lot of information at once instead the information being dulled out over the course of the film. It all comes at once, and out of nowhere, like there were a couple of reels missing or something.
These complaints aside, I think Dead Souls has the potential to become a classic with hardcore horror fans. It has all of the elements to do so, and being fairly-well put together, it’s doesn’t feel like a part of the horror movie machinery that Hollywood has been cranking out the last couple of decades.
Dead Souls is also a very good-looking movie to boot. The transfer done by Scream Factory really shows off what the image can do. To be fair, this is a TV movie, and it certainly looks like one, but for what it is, I think it looks as good as it possibly can. It seems to have been shot in high definition, so you get quite a bit of image detail. I didn’t think that blacks were as deep as they could’ve been, but the color palette is fairly strong. I also felt that the contrast was a bit too high and probably could have been dialed back a bit. It’s certainly not a bad-looking presentation though. It’s a really good one, but don’t expect everything to be crystal clear. There are also two options for the audio: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. Both tracks are really solid and deliver the goods. I wouldn’t call them amazing, but things like the score (which I didn’t care much for) really benefits from the 5.1 track. So it’s not an amazing sound experience, but it’s adequate. Dialogue is clear and sound effects are pretty good, but it sounds a little mechanical in the end. There are also subtitles in English for those who need them.
In the supplements, you’ll find an audio commentary with director Colin Theys, screenwriter John Doolan and producer Andrew Gernhard; a set of bloopers, a tour of the set; and the original TV spots. So yeah, not a wide array of extras, but a decent amount. I would have liked a documentary with interviews from some more of the behind-the-scenes people, particularly the special effects crew, but this is a pretty good release and the extras are informative enough.
- Tim Salmons