Dead Souls Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by 101 Films
Directed by Colin Theys
Written by John Doolan and Michael Laimo (novel)
2012, 93 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 1st July 2013
Jesse James as John Petrie
Bill Moseley as Sheriff Depford
Magda Apanowicz as Emma
Geraldine Hughes as Mary Petrie
Noah Fleiss as Mack
Anthony Del Negro as Jay
Promising more than your average straight to DVD horror film, Dead Souls stands out from the rest due to the fact that someone actually bothered to adapt it from a book. I've seen several movies from 101 Films now, and wouldn't describe any of them as really appealing to a literary crowd. Well, who wants to read a book, anyway? It makes a lovely change that the creators of Dead Souls decided to, whether the book is any good or not. Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Laimo, this film tells a story of violent religious zeal, family skeletons, mild horror and Bill Moseley.
Bill Moseley! It's always nice to slide an obscure horror film into your DVD player and discover a bona fide horror icon within. Mister Moseley's appearance doesn't amount to much more than a cameo, but it's nice all the same, adding a sense of authenticity to this otherwise unremarkable thriller. More Bill Moseley and less of everyone else would have been lovely, although that's a criticism that I could make of a lot of horror movies these days (I'm looking at you, Texas Chainsaw 3D). Likewise, the Lovecraftian use of old bibles and chalk drawings is underutilised and never used to its full potential.
When his Carrie-esque Margaret White style mother suddenly falls ill, adopted young Johnny Petirie takes the opportunity to return to his childhood home, where his birth family were murdered by a mad Pastor (one of whom he drowns in a toilet, which I always find hilarious for some reason). This home being in the middle of Maine, it's entirely obvious that poor Johnny is in for a homecoming of Stephen King proportions. A character returning to a childhood home combined with the Maine setting? It's a recipe for disaster. Or it should be, anyway.
A fairly standard television movie, Dead Souls is slow, unambitious and rarely scary. It struggles to justify its 18 rating, with the young cast and coming-of-age story not entirely appropriate for an 'adult' horror film. The young cast acquit themselves well, but no-one really stands out. The pre-credits sequence is enjoyable and one or two of the ideas intriguing (sort-of zombies and religious fervour) but Main(e)ly, it's Stephen King lite.
Dead Souls is more literary than your average low-budget horror film, but lacking in the necessary atmosphere and thrills to make it a good movie. The pace is too slow, the story and characters nowhere near compelling enough. Even Bill Moseley seems to be on autopilot throughout (again, a common criticism I could make of many recent films - Texas Chainsaw, take a bow). For all its ambitions of Stephen King style American horror, it just feels boring and cheap. At home on television, that's fair enough, but as a DVD release, it's lacking. Maybe fans of the novel will enjoy it more, but I shan't be bothering to read that on the basis of this film alone. Distinctly average, it could do with a lot more soul than is on display here.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.