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Deadline (2009) - Film Review

DEADLINE is likely to be received with very mixed reviews. On one hand, you’ll have some of the viewers scared witless within minutes and hiding behind a cushion for the duration, and on the other there’ll be some who will find the story just too feeble to enjoy it fully. I, strangely was in a third group ‘cos I found it to be somewhere in the middle.

Deadline started with great promise and was quite intense from the outset. In fact within quarter of an hour I was already watching in eager anticipation and was loving it! Alice (Brittany Murphy) retreats to an empty, old Victorian house to work on her screenplay in a bid to make her fast approaching deadline. Almost immediately things get a tad creepy in the old house. We have all of the usual creaky doors,
dripping taps, and things that go bump in the night. There are also some great jump-scares that frighten the bejesus out of you even though you know they are coming, and a good few tense moments when you are expecting a jump-scare but it doesn‘t come, keeping you on your toes the whole time! Of course I had seen it all before but the beautiful cinematography was a joy, the shadowy lighting and the haunting yet dramatic music score lifted the film into a higher level than most haunted house flicks. The interesting camera angles brilliantly capture that feeling of being watched and as the thrills start early on, the tension is built very quickly.

The idea that Alice, having had a psychological breakdown after a traumatic event would set herself up in an old creepy house was a wee bit silly. Although the part was acted well, I couldn’t help but feel that Alice wasn’t quite scared enough. Let’s put it this way, had I been slightly unhinged and in the same situation, I’d be requiring a straight-jacket and some rubber wallpaper pretty early on!! When Alice follows some watery footprints leading to the attic, she ends up mooching through its contents rather than looking for the owner of the footprints and it seems that she was feeling mere curiosity rather than raw fear (don‘t get me wrong, I‘d love to have a nose in someone else’s attic, but even I have to agree that there is a time and a place for such snooping, and this was quite obviously neither!). Alice discovers some old video tapes and the mystery of the house and its previous owners (who’s lives seem to strangely mirror Alice’s) begins to unravel. The whole video tape thing is just plain daft, but if you can get past it, this is a very creepy little film, superbly portrayed by all four main actors. It is beautifully made and often scenes featuring only Alice and no dialogue are amongst the scariest which is a credit to the cinematography, music score and Murphy’s acting.

The ending (complete with obligatory twist), was a real letdown. Because this film looked so fantastic, I really wanted to be absorbed in it, and for a while I was. I really loved the ambience created in Deadline and the promising start but the story itself was a touch languid and I have to admit to feeling a little deflated as the end credits rolled.

I wouldn’t recommend watching this film in broad daylight with a group of friends but if you watch it alone, on a dark and stormy night there are definitely some eerie moments to be had and those aforementioned jump-scares will set your pulse racing from very early on.

DEADLINE (2009) Writer/Director: Sean McConville. Cast: Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch, Tammy Blanchard, Marc Blucas

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  1. I was all the way through thinking good cinematography and superb musical score and then waiting for the setup to payoff. Then the questionable moments came. Why the sudden cut from the chair falling over to Alice in bed? Why did Alice stop looking for the wet footprints? Why couldn't they leave the real Thora Birch in the bath scene instead of the massive let down dummy?

    But what I do like is the occasions where you constantly question what is going on. Throughout the movie overall. Was it Ben in the house or David? (I think we all gathered he wasn't dead when the tape stopped) Was it all real or not? I also wondered when Alice's friend picked up the script and started reading through it whether she was going to be reading through to her own end in the script, as if Alice had already wrote her death! It could have been the way to go, but it wasn't that. But then we get the ending of the friend picking up the camera where David was supposed to have died and finding herself on it. So what was going on? That ending was not fulfilling enough. Although I guess it was stating that Alice got her inspiration for her characters, in this case David, from what she did in her life, the filming of the sleeping 'angel'. The friend then realises even more so that Alice is unstable and if she didn't already know, that the whole thing was made up by Alice based on her struggles (as we were also kindly hinted to through her reminding Alice on the phone about her boyfriend, baby and drowning experience) So really, that ending shot of the friend on the stares pretending to realise something, really was not the best way to end.

    And it was at the end that I finally worked out the meaning of a scene from the first 10 minutes of the film. When Alice and friend were driving to the house, friend suggests 'why dont you write a story of your life?' Alice replies, 'im not interested in writing a horror story'. That right there was the setup. The horror story ensued and we ended up watching a story that resembled Alice's experiences, neatly ending up in a ready bound complete script.

    It does bring to mind what writers may have to go through to come up with storylines, poor Alice. On this basis, Tarantino you sick man you!

  2. Shaun!! Thank so much for giving away the whole plot. I, like many others love Stalk 'n' Slash 'cos they tell you if a film is good or bad without giving away more than the dvd box/synopsis. You have now managed to give away the whole plot. Well done!! :-)