NOVEMBER 17, 2009
A long-ass time ago, I interviewed Thora Birch for Train (which was finally released today, oddly enough), and she talked briefly about her next horror film, Deadline. Ms. Birch said, quote, “Brittany Murphy needs to write a book, she goes and stays in this house for a while to do it, and she discovers that there’s something in the house. And then she finds these tapes, and she’s watching this husband film his pregnant wife, and that’s me.” I was so confused by that that I had to keep rewinding the tape to make sure I was hearing her right. And it wasn’t until about halfway through the film that I remembered “Oh THIS was that baffling movie she was talking about!”, which unsurprisingly was about the time I started getting baffled as to what was going on.
Unfortunately it never quite recovers, and the ending could be considered a fine-able offense in some cultures. It’s an ambiguous ending, which is fine - but either outcome you accept as the “right” one means that other stuff in the film doesn’t make any goddamn sense, and that’s a big problem. (SPOILERS AHEAD) As the lady said, throughout the film Brittany Murphy is playing videos of Birch and Marc Blucas, a guy with major esteem issues who films his new bride seemingly 24 hours a day, and sees the deterioration of their relationship, ultimately leading to murder. Fine, but then the end suggests that they never existed and that everything was a figment of Murphy’s imagination. If so, how did she end up in the bathtub, and how did it get drained (we see Blucas put her in there, and then saved by Birch’s ghost)? Why does she have the necklace? So then, OK - then they are REAL, right? OK, then where did Blucas’ body go? And why does Murphy’s girlfriend see herself on the tape, instead of Blucas and Birch? See what I mean?
But even if the ending made total sense, the movie would still be largely pointless. It’s far too slow, for one thing, and I think there should be a rule that if your movie is about one person alone in a house for half its running time, then that person should be a good actor delivering an engaging performance. Murphy can be accused of neither. She was a bubbly and cute presence in stuff like Clueless, and wasn’t even that bad in Sin City, but she is positively dreadful here, walking around like a zombie, not bothering to have a genuine reaction to the occasional creepy shit she sees, and delivering what few lines she has with all the conviction of a deli guy calling the next number. And she even LOOKS like ass nowadays; not sure what the hell happened to her but I was kind of appalled at her appearance.
Birch and Blucas fare no better. This is Blucas’ third strike for HMAD (after the equally dull Killing Floor and the mind-blowingly awful Animals), and since the guy is also the focal point of the worst season of Buffy, I think I’m just going to avoid him from now on. Birch, on the other hand, is playing a character who makes little sense (why did she even marry this guy in the first place?) but is at least somewhat sympathetic, and is the source of the only all out ghost scene in the entire movie. And it’s better than Train, so she’s got that going for her. Still, I wouldn’t turn down Patrick’s Monkey Trouble 2 pitch if it ever presents itself again...
I think we also need to put a stop to any movie or book that involves an author isolating themselves in order to write his/her next book, and how bad this turns out for them. Seriously, how many times have we seen this plot setup? Yes, The Shining is a classic in both mediums, but for every Shining, there are a dozen Final Drafts and Deadlines. Ditto for characters "creepily" playing "Moonlight Sonata" (usually in the middle of the night, waking another character). Last I checked, there are hundreds of pieces of classical music to play on the piano, I don't know why filmmakers constantly feel the need to fall back on this one.
And this is of no issue to the filmmakers (as far as I know), but the DVD ratio is as big of a mystery as the film’s conclusion. It’s not anamorphic (even though the trailer at the top of the disc is), and at full-frame it appears to be a 1.85:1 ratio. But it looked vertically stretched, so I stretched it to fit the screen, giving it an approximate 2.35:1 ratio, which looked better but now slightly stretched horizontally. So my guess is that it was shot at 2.20:1 for some reason (a very rare shooting aspect) and the DVD screener folk didn’t know what to make of it. But I’ll be damned if wondering about that wasn’t more entertaining than anything on-screen.
Since the DVD has no extras, I went online to see if I could dig up any information on it (for example, why it existed in the first place), but found nothing. I DID find some hilarious rumors about Murphy though, such as a press conference where she began singing and putting napkins over her face as she laid down on the floor, and how she also lost the role of Tinkerbell in Disney’s new franchise, due to her dating ex-cons (the article also mentions that the film itself needed work, due to having “too many” lesbian innuendos - what the?) and being possibly hooked on drugs. But worse than all of that, I also learned that her next horror movie is directed by Mike Feifer, which is possibly the saddest fate of all.
What say you?