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This exercise in evil real estate isn't perfect, but it provides some nominal horror thrills...
Shout! Factory / 92 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: June 25, 2013
Every Friday, I go to my neighborhood video store (yes, I am very old-school) and rent the latest horror movie that has just come out. The clerk, who knows me by name, says “The usual weekend horror movies?” to which I respond, “That’s how I know that it’s Friday.” Needless to say, I have a penchant for the spooky, the creepy, the eerie, and occasionally, the fairly predictable slicer and dicer. So, when a copy of Dead Souls showed up at my house to be reviewed, I rubbed my palms together in anticipation. Bring on the ghosts, and just try to scare me.
Dead Soulshas a few juicy moments to it and bends a couple of the rules. We do have a family, including two children, who get crucified by their father at the beginning of the film. Typically, in this “Cult of Kid” society of ours, showing the murder of a child is a strict no-no. It’s not very graphic, but the movie goes there. I appreciate the gutsy move. Of course, it is germane to the story as well. The main character, as an infant, is the sole survivor of the family, and he returns to the home at the age of 18, only to stir up the evil that hasn’t quite been laid to rest. Of course, the malevolent spirits begin lurking in the background, dragging bodies around the house while our protagonist innocently and naively tries to reconnect with a past he knows nothing about. I have to admit, I never get tired of the nasty-ghost-in-the-background staple element in ghost stories.
Dead Soulsdoes have a lot of staple elements to it. The dead family’s house, that everyone except the main character knows has a grisly past, is out in a wooded area in the middle of nowhere. There is a young, pretty stranger that the audience doesn’t know if they can trust at first, then later wonders if she is really alive or maybe she’s dead too. It is a fact that a person is most likely to be killed by a loved one, though the crazed patriarch slaying his family has been done before. I would also suppose that people, especially at a young age, might be sheltered enough not to know their lineage, even if it is a notorious one. This plot thread gives me a curious feeling of déjà-vu because I have just seen this same premise in the latest installment of Texas Chainsaw. (Having Leatherface show up at a family reunion – and you thought you had bad relatives!) What is original about Dead Souls, and what I would have liked to have known more about are the bizarre religious beliefs and rituals that the family, spearheaded by the father, believed in. The movie talks about a link between Jesus and Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld. Each was killed and rose from the dead. How else could these two be linked? I think, with a little research and creativity, a fuller, better back story could have been presented. I may like the frights, but I watch enough movies that there has to be a decent story as well, before I give a movie any serious accolades.
Another rather large problem with the movie is the last 20-30 minutes, when people start to become possessed by the spirits of the dead family who aren’t at rest. It seems to me that the father and maybe the mother were the only ones to take this religious mumbo-jumbo seriously. Yet, each possessed vessel of evil (which numbered 3-5) seemed to be intent on killing our main character. Frankly, this doesn’t make much sense to me, except for the fact that this plot twist puts our young man in more dire peril. I wasn’t sure if the crazed father is jumping from body to body, or maybe the family is just tired of waiting in limbo and wants to move on. Either way, it leaves me scratching my head a bit. Perhaps they could have worn some sort of paranormal nametag to make things easier. On a side note, I do like one thing about the whole family possession thing. The movie does suggest that the family dog might actually have a soul, too.