Deadline: Don’t Bother.



Deadline (2011)
Directed and written by Chris Tasara
When I was handed Deadline for review, the only thing that I was told about the movie was that it begins with one of the most gratuitous nudity scenes seen in many years.  Lo and behold, that revelation was true, and regrettably I still watched the rest of the film.
The loose plot of the film follows a young couple, Kyle and Sarah (Paul Francis and Jules Wilcox) as they settle in to their new home to start their new lives together.  When realtor has a suspiciously long dialogue with the couple about the antique mirror in the house, I got the impression that we were gearing up for a potentially decent, if clichéd, haunting story.  After all, the very first scene shows that naked woman meeting an untimely demise* and we are lead to assume that this is the very house where she was gunned down.  Perhaps her ghost is coming back to lead Sarah to her true killer?  When furniture starts sliding across the floor, all on its own, and moving boxes spontaneously unpack themselves, I was ready for the ghost to appear and for the plot to get going somewhere.   This does not happen, and it was the first of many disappointments in Deadline.
When the ghost story does not take off, the plot goes majorly off course.  It turns out that the house on that land burned down ten years ago, after the naked lady was killed, and the detective who was on the case, Brills (played by the typically charming Gary Hudson), has been obsessed with the case ever since. Somehow Brills and the entire construction crew who built the new house missed two bodies buried under the house.  Kyle finds the bodies, with no excavation needed, and reignites Brills interest in the case. 
Brills is, however, a dirty cop.  Far too much of the film’s running time is following him and his partner as they reap drug fueled vengeance over Los Angeles.  They rob from drug dealers, and then kill the dealers with their own tigers (I cannot make this stuff up), all while Brills stalks the house that Sarah and Kyle are trying to make a home.
I could keep going on about the plot, as it continues to bob and weave from there, but I will spare you the confusion, and I will also spare you the scene where Brills discusses the merits of half and half versus non-dairy creamer (again, I could not make this up).   Rather, I’ll boil it down to the two major issues I had with the film.
The script is awful.  Not only is the dialogue awkward and unnatural, and the plot impossible to follow, but there is no character development and all of the characters act irrationally.  Sarah and Kyle barely react when their house shows obvious signs of a spirit presence.  Kyle sees a table slide across the room, and hardly reacts.  When they start seeing visions (of the past or future- who knows?) in the antique mirror that survived the fire, Kyle just covers it with a blanket.  He is not being flippant, or feeding his own denial of the supernatural, he just does not want to look at it anymore.  Also, Sarah is supposed to be a bestselling fiction writer.  The reason we know that is that she says that several times throughout the film.  We never see her write.  Not once.  And considering she writes crime and suspense stories, you would think that she has more insight into what is going on with Brills, but she doesn’t.   
The casting is also awful.  Jules Wilcox does a surprisingly good job with the weak material she was given.  The actress is competent in showing she is scared and having you actually believe her.  In fact, I ended up looking to her performance as more of a sign of what was happening in the film than the setting or the dialogue.  Her performance is not the problem with the casting.  The real problem with the casting was that all of the women and most of the men look exactly alike.  All of the women are pretty, tan, slim, big-chested brunettes, at approximately the same height.  And several of their beaus were all tan, muscled, brunette men with nearly the same haircut and no facial hair.   The plot was never clear if a scene was a flashback, a dream sequence, another young couple, or regular old Kyle and Sarah, so this unfortunate casting pattern left me even more lost.
It honestly pains me to write negative film reviews.  I know that a lot of money, and often passion goes in to making an independently produced film.    After trying every possible way to put a positive spin on Deadline I have come to the conclusion that this is one film I cannot recommend. 
*If you were just thinking “spoiler alert,” shame on you.  Naked woman in the first scenes of horror films never survive very long.

Deirdre Crimmins

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Deirdre (Dede) lives in Chicago (via Boston and Cleveland) with two black cats. She writes for Film Thrills, High Def Digest, The Brattle Theater, Rue Morgue Magazine, Birth.Movies.Death., and anyone else who will let her drone on about genre film. She wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero and is always hopeful that Hollywood will get its head out of its ass.

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