VOD REVIEW: DEAD STILL / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: PHILIP ADRIAN BOOTH / SCREENPLAY: PHILIP ADRIAN BOOTH / STARRING: RAY WISE, BEN BROWDER, GAVIN CASALEGNO, ELLA LAMONT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Rarely do four words strike horror into the hearts of low-budget film fans quite like the precursor 'based on true events'. Not for the subject matter, either. No, these days, few things are a better indicator of a film's quality like its hurry to warn viewers of how the story totally happened. No, really.
These 'real' events in question see wedding photographer and divorced dad Brandon inherit his creepy old great grandfather's creepy old mansion after he dies. Using it an excuse for a little father-and-son bonding time, Brandon takes his little Bobby along for the ride. There they find great grandpa's antique camera, which he promptly tests on a nearby homeless chap and unfortunate wedding party. An unexpected side effect: those whose photos are taken by the camera die shortly afterwards. Oops. What doesn't bode well for his hobo subject turns out even worse for the wedding guests. See, by 'true events', writer/director Philip Adrian Booth (one half of filmmaking sibling duo the Booth brothers) actually meant 'episode of The Twilight Zone/Goosebumps' rather than your traditional 'actually happened' definition of the words.
(Dead) Still, the film does have its perks. It's far gorier than one might expect, for example, showcasing some truly impressive death sequences amidst the TV level storytelling, Syfy imagery and general naffness of it all. The fantastic Ray Wise pops up in a relatively small role to give the film a sense of class, while ex-Farscape/SG-1 star Ben Browder does a decent job playing the lead. Wise, at least, makes a nice change from Danny Trejo and Eric Roberts' now too-familiar faces, having made this sort of thing their bread and butter over recent years. From Twin Peaks to that terrible Jeepers Creepers sequel, one can always rely on Wise to give an entertaining performance, no matter the movie. Dead Still at least gives him a role to wrap his chops around – sinister photographer Wenton Davies, owner of the all-important evil camera.
While Dead Still has its moments, there's no hiding the distinct whiff of Syfy about it. It tries, but it's simply underdeveloped.