PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

Review: Dead Souls / Cert: 18 / Director: Colin Theys / Screenplay: John Doolan / Starring: Jesse James, Magda Apanowicz, Bill Moseley / Release Date: July 1st

Dead Souls kicks off with a grisly prologue wherein a crazed preacher dwelling in an old dark farmhouse butchers and crucifies his family and then attempts to crucify himself too (hmm, that last hand was always going to be tricky). Only his infant son escapes the slaughter. Flash forward 17 years, and the infant has grown into mild-mannered New Yorker Johnny (James), who is completely ignorant of his past. Suddenly discovering that he is about to inherit the old dark farmhouse on his 18th birthday, he decides to spend a few hours in the place, and as neither his adoptive mother, his real estate agent nor Emma (Apanowicz), the girl he finds squatting in an upstairs bedroom, bothers to tell him that his whole family perished there in the most gruesome manner, why on earth shouldn't he? 

It very soon becomes apparent that the prologue is the best bit. The rest of the film is a long, hard slog to the end credits. Director Colin Theys lays it on thick with the horror tropes. As Johnny and Emma explore, faces appear at windows, doors close themselves and open up again, framed photographs hurl themselves onto the floor and get smashed to pieces. But for most of the time, the scariest thing is the wallpaper.

To be fair, there is a story of kinds. Apparently, the mad preacher had been cooking up some kind of ancient Egyptian magic, as a result of which he and the rest of Johnny's defunct family are able to possess people, both living and dead, and also inhabit the bodies of various animals. Bill Moseley pops up towards the end to explain it all and draw some chalk symbols on the floor before having his head shoved in a sink by Johnny's adoptive mother, who turns up late for the party. It all builds towards a tumultuous climax with the farmhouse under siege from two (yes, count them, two) zombies. Johnny and Emma have no option but to complete the ritual that will finally lay the family to rest – either that, or they could just walk away at a fast stroll...

The last act is dreamily lethargic and entirely lacking in self-belief, as though everyone concerned is simply going through the motions. Emma chops Johnny's adoptive mother in the guts with an axe – the woman who has raised him and whom he believed to be his real mother until only a few hours before – and Johnny doesn't even blink. Well, if they can't be bothered, why should you? Based on a novel by Michael Laimo. The surname says it all really.

Extras: None

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