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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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