Dead Souls Blu-ray Review
Directed by Colin Theys
Written by John Doolan
2012, Region A, 92 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on June 25th, 2013
Jesse James as Johnny Petrie
Magda Apanowicz as Emma
Geraldine Hughes as Mary
Jaiden Kaine as Andrew Judsun
Bill Moseley as Sheriff Depford
Johnny Petrie receives a letter informing him of an inheritance of a property in Maine. His mother, a pharmacy-hopping hypochondriac who dominates his life, is unwilling to provide any answers, so he contacts the estate attorney for more information. When Johnny mentions the name attached to the property, his mother suffers a slight mental collapse and is hospitalized for a few days. Johnny takes this opportunity to investigate the situation in Maine on his own.
He arrives in town only to immediately suffer at the hands of the locals, apparently pissed off that he is going to stir up trouble. Their bullying seems premature as there is no way of knowing who Johnny is or what problems he may cause the town as this incident occurs within minutes of his arrival. Once at the house, he meets the estate attorney who is eager to dump the property and move on, but Johnny wants to take some time getting acquainted with his new inheritance first. The house is in surprisingly good condition, but our hero is not alone for long, as he is almost immediately joined by Emma, a squatter with more attitude than should be appropriate for a trespasser. Together, they search the house for secrets and find there are supernatural elements.
Dead Souls is an original production from Chiller TV, based on Michael Laimo’s novel of the same name. While the material doesn't readily translate to film, the cast makes the most of it and delivers some solid performances. Jesse James (2005’s The Amityville Horror) does a fine job as our reluctant hero in search of his past. He spends the majority of the film creepin' around the house with Magda Apanowicz (Snowmageddon) and neither actor stinks up the joint. The real shame in the acting department falls on veteran character actor Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2), who shows up long enough to sleepwalk his way to a paycheck. It isn't his fault; he just has little to work with and adds nothing more than name recognition.
Director Colin Theys continues to grow as a filmmaker, but has not yet conquered the art of building suspense and his movies remain crippled by pacing issues. The film benefits from some nice production design and art direction, but the creep factor is significantly dampened by the cheap “made-for-TV” look of cinematographer Adrian Correia's sterile lighting design. The experience is further hindered by the occasional pause in the action for commercial breaks. Matthew Llewellyn's score isn't doing any favors either, as the cues hit every cliché in the genre without missing a beat.
Shout! Factory took filmmaker Colin Theys under its wing with the distribution of his two previous efforts Alien Opponent and Steve Niles' Remains. Both were low-budget efforts that did nothing to impress, but were serviceable in delivering modest amounts of entertainment. With the release of Dead Souls however, instead of maintaining the status quo, the decision was made to release this as part of the Scream Factory lineup. An odd choice, because until now this collection has been reserved for horror films of a certain vintage; specifically the 1980s, with an occasional ‘70s gem thrown in for good measure. While not a cardinal sin by any means, the addition of this lame duck is baffling.
If the makers of Dead Souls set out to make a lackluster snoozer that squanders any goodwill earned from its violent prologue, then mission accomplished. To be fair, there is nothing in this film that stands out as particularly terrible, but to be honest, nothing stands out at all. The usual trappings of a low-budget production are paired with the limitations of being a TV movie of the week. Where the film succeeds is in dropping the ball at just about every opportunity. I shouldn't pick on this movie too much, because it really is instantly forgettable. Nothing to see here kids…move along.
Video and Audio:
Dead Souls is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is crisp and clean, which speaks highly of the transfer but is disappointing for a horror film. Everything feels a bit flat, as colors appear intentionally de-saturated while black levels remain solid.
Audio options include a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track. The 5.1 mix opens up the music and provides some nice directional effects during the endless house-searching sequences. English subtitles are provided.
Scream Factory welcomes this horror step-child to the family with a small amount of supplements.
Director Colin Theys is joined by screenwriter John Doolan for an audio commentary filled with several pats on the back. The conversation is lively and filled with anecdotes, but isn't the most informative track around. There is an odd moment early on where they share a laugh at the expense of a crew member injured during the scene when Johnny first arrives in Maine.
Set Tour (7 minutes) Before leaving the location, Theys picked up a video camera and shot a self-guided tour of the various places where the film was shot.
A collection of bloopers (7 minutes) is offered for your viewing pleasure and is surprisingly entertaining. In addition to the usual assortment of actors flubbing lines and making faces, we get a nice look at the difficulties of working with live birds.
Rounding out the special features is an excessive number of TV spots that runs almost 5 minutes.