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Dead Souls(TV) (2012)
No synopsis for Dead Souls.
For more about Dead Souls and the Dead Souls Blu-ray release, see Dead Souls Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jesse James, Magda Apanowicz, Bill Moseley (I), Geraldine Hughes, Noah Fleiss
Director: Colin Theys
» See full cast & crew
Dead Souls Blu-ray Review
You were expecting Gogol perhaps?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 19, 2013
See if any of this sounds familiar: an innocent baby is the sole survivor of a horrific family massacre. The tot is adopted by someone who keeps the child's history a secret from him, for their own selfish reasons. Nevertheless, upon reaching the age of 18, the kid, who believes that his adoptive parent is his real parent, gets a phone call out of the blue alerting him that he's inherited a large estate, something that confuses the heck out of the teen. Against his parent's wishes, he decides to go check out his windfall, meeting an antsy attorney who seems really motivated to get the estate dealt with as quickly as possible. The kid, against advice to the contrary, decides to stay at what is revealed to be his family manse, and all hell breaks loose. Meanwhile the young man has to contend with all sorts of nefarious townsfolk who consider him the unwanted survivor of a long ago horror that has colored their entire community in unexpected ways. If you were to simply substitute a female for a male in the main character category, as well as make the parental units two rather than solo, you'd have a more or less accurate recounting of the largely lamentable Texas Chainsaw 3D (as well as a number of other, somewhat related, horror enterprises). Dead Souls doesn't even have the gimmick of 3D going for it (for whatever that's worth), and while it has some decently spooky moments in the early going, it devolves into such ludicrousness by its third act that many will probably assume it's meant to be a horror parody rather than the genuine article. The film is the product of two Connecticut buddies who are just starting their careers in feature film (they've done a bunch of shorts together, and evidently have a couple of previous features dating back to 2008), and while there are certain elements that work okay, if not fantastically, in this enterprise, it has a slapdash, film school quality about it that keeps the proceedings at a decidedly less than optimal level. The funniest thing here is that the screenplay was based on a novel by one Michael Laimo, whose surname according to the commentary track on this Blu-ray is pronounced lame-o. 'Nuff said?
In typical horror film fashion, we're introduced to a seemingly happy little family living on their isolated farmland. The father is busy chopping wood while the mother tends to a newborn baby. A teenage girl listens to her iPod while a young boy hangs out, not doing much of anything. Things of course soon turn sinister, with the mother asking the girl to look after the baby since she's feeling ill, and almost simultaneously with the father coming inside, donning a clerical collar while looking at some ancient texts and then ominously thanking the Lords (note the plural—a sure tip off we're not dealing with a major Christian denomination). Within a few seconds we see the mother furiously retching into the toilet, to the point where she's disgorging copious amounts of blood, at which point the father appears and puts the poor woman out of her misery by giving her a rather forceful "swirly". Dad then moves on to taking out the children in a series of gruesome attacks. The baby is spirited away to the cellar and placed in a chest of drawers. Dad goes berserk at not being able to find the newborn, but that doesn't keep him from making his appointed rounds, which boils down to dragging the bodies of his family out to the barn where he crucifies their bodies. Then, just for good measure, he crucifies himself. A cop, who has been alerted to the horror by the young boy who was just barely able to get a distress telephone call out before he was killed, walks in on the carnage just in time to hear the father intone a portentous warning about there being "one more".
Flash forward eighteen or so years to meet teenager Johnny Petrie (Jesse James), an obviously decent if slightly neurotic young man who is under the rather imperious thumb of his more than slightly adoptive mother, Mary (Geraldine Hughes). Mary is a walking pharmacology index, gulping down a host of anti-anxiety drugs, and she seems very intent on keeping Johnny completely cloistered from the outside world. A mysterious phone call changes all of that, one where a disembodied voice informs Johnny he's inherited a rather vast estate. When Johnny mentions a name the voice had given him as his benefactor, Mary promptly hits the floor in a dead faint. With Mary safely tucked away in a psychiatric facility, Johnny finally has the freedom to do what he wants, and of course he takes off to explore what exactly he's inherited and why.
That sets up the bulk of the film, where Johnny is introduced to the site of the opening carnage by the attorney handling the estate, a lawyer who obviously wants to unload the property as quickly as possible. Johnny has also been accosted by several young toughs in the town who tell him he's not wanted, something that obviously confuses the lad. Against the advice of just about everybody, Johnny doesn't just stick around, he sticks around in the deserted house, only to soon discover it's not quite so deserted after all. There's not only a lovely young squatter named Emma (Magda Apanowicz), there are a number of other entities, both human and spectral, haunting the premises. This part of the film works in fits and starts, though it relies far too often on well worn clichés like jump cuts with booming LFE and editing that makes seemingly banal incidents take on much more sinister overtones.
Dead Souls has some decent chills in this central section, but it more or less completely falls apart the more things start getting "explained". One character who has been menacing (and drunk to boot) suddenly becomes a good guy without the slightest segue. Ghosts start inhabiting bodies, making the film start to resemble any number of recent zombie efforts. And Johnny, who has spent the entire film desperately trying to coax even minimal information about his background out of any number of other characters with only limited success, suddenly has a revelation delivered courtesy of a cassette recording of a chiming bell. Dead Souls just becomes relentlessly silly in this final act to the point where it's actually a bit funny, especially as Johnny and Emma try to get away from stumbling, mumbling zombies.
The one thing that Dead Souls gets inarguably right is the absolutely annoying presence of crows. I live in a neighborhood overrun with these harbingers of death (or so the film implies). Nonstop cawing can indeed lead to thoughts of mortality, if not for oneself, at least for the damned birds.
Dead Souls Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dead Souls is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory's imprint Scream Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This digitally shot feature exhibits both the pluses and minuses typical of this format. The image is often crystal clear, though kind of flat and textureless, with decently robust color (many scenes have been intentionally desaturated). The exterior shots have nice depth of field and director Colin Theys and DP Adrian Correia do some nice focus pulling that increases that aspect in several establishing shots. The biggest issue I personally had with this high definition presentation was a significant lack of shadow detail. Lots of this film plays out in darkened or dimly lit scenes, as is so typical of horror films, but in this case it's sometimes next to impossible to make out exactly what's happening. That may have been an intentional choice to up the viewer's anxiety level, but it can also be a frustrating experience after a while.
Dead Souls Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dead Souls perhaps unexpectedly has both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track as well as DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo offering. The 5.1 track is wonderfully immersive most of the time, with lots of discrete channelization of foley effects. The ubiquitous crow caws are placed around the soundfield to often spooky effect, and once we get into the main farmhouse sequences, LFE abounds and there are a lot of "startle" moments that dot the soundscape. Dialogue is very cleanly presented and fidelity is excellent. Dynamic range is quite wide.
Dead Souls Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dead Souls Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dead Souls is an obviously derivative piece that actually starts out fairly well but soon careens downhill to pretty ridiculous depths. Director Theys has a good eye, and many of the scenes here are framed very well, with appropriately spooky undertones, but the screenplay is so clunky after a while that it actually may provoke giggles rather than scares. Horror fans will be able to predict just about every turn this film takes long before the film itself gets there. Maybe Dead End would have been a better title. Nevertheless, this Blu-ray offers really good video and audio quality, for those who are considering adding this to their collections.
Dead Souls Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dead Souls Blu-ray - March 6, 2013
Scream Factory, the horror-thriller offshoot of independent film distributor Shout Factory, will release on Blu-ray Colin Theys' Dead Souls (2012), starring Bill Moseley, Jesse James, and Geraldine Hughes. The release will be available for purchase on June 25t ...
Dead Souls Blu-ray Screenshots
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