Redbox Synopsis: While investigating the murder of her father by her blind younger brother, a young woman encounters the vengeful spirit of Elizabeth Short, known in legend as "The Black Dahlia". (Not Rated, 81 minutes, no captions)
NOTE TO READER: A different type of review today. Some idiot bitched at me for giving away light spoilers. And by light spoilers, referencing things that were in the trailer. I treat my readership as an educated film audience but since some people insist on being treated like kindergarteners, I have childproofed this review with giant spoiler alerts before I hint at anything that could conceivable be construed as a spoiler.I also put plug covers in the electrical outlets. THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS, PEOPLE
Anyway, review and some spoilers after the jump.
When you read my review, The Black Dahlia Haunting is an indie film with an approximate budget of $2,000 and it does show. Personaly, I consider myself an indie film fan that often considers some low budget films hidden gems. For horror fans that write off a film shot in video rather than film or can't get passed sound issues, keep that in mind with this review.
People who remember this case happening are at least 80 and don't know how to use a computer so for the non-octogenarians, the 1947 case dubbed by the Los Angeles papers "The Black Dalia" referred to the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short found; her body discovered severely mutilated on a vacant lot. You might have a vague memory of the 2006's stink-bomb, the Black Dahlia; a Brian DePalma directed, Josh Hartnett vehicle that transformed the former into 'has-been" status and "never-was" for the latter. A critical and box office failure, like the original case, do to artificial hype revived interest in the Black Dahlia murder..for about a week.
|Yeah, I don't remember it either|
The reason the Black Daliah murder has never been successfully adapted into a feature film is that the case itself, despite being gruesome, it isn't all that interesting. You can use all the trappings of the 1940s as a backdrop but in the end, you are left with a single murder with no viable leads that was hyped by the media. David Fincher left Black Dahlia in 2006 to make the superior Zodiac, another unsolved true crime period piece. The most noteworthy aspect of the real life case was media hype and in general, people hate the media on principal. Even A&E type True-Crime shows struggle to produce 45 minutes worth of air time, most of it filler material.
But Brain DePalma's directorial decent, Josh Harnett's inexplicable stardom* or documentaries of questionable relevancy to their stated subject matter aside, those are all posts for another time.
*Don't hate-tweet me, Black Hawk Down is in my all time top 20 films
Back to Review of The Black Dahlia Haunting.
The Black Dahlia Hunting takes place in the present day and attempts to blend the genres of film noir with J-horror. It's an interesting concept but they work against each other in that if the protagonist becomes possessed by an evil spirit, the narrator is no longer the character audiences can identify with, nor are we seeing the narrative unfold through the protagonists point of view. Unique dialog, commonly associated with American Film Noir, is hit or miss, particularly in Holly Jenson's (Devanny Pinn)dialog ranging from sharp and biting to clunky and awkward. The cinematic visual style works for both J-Horror and Film Noir genres featuring black and shadows as a dominant color and shading. Washed out flash back scenes and the shower scene were perfect homages to Film Noir and J-Horror respectively and both Jessica Cameron and Alexis Iacono nailed their precious few minutes on screen.
|Jessica Cameron was on screen way less than I wanted|
|Creepy can be sexy. And not in an Claire Danes type of way, either|
The narrative is uneven as the blood relations between Dr. Owen and The Black Dahila Avenger link the linear relationship between the two, what's unclear what ties Holly to Elizabeth Short/The Black Dahlia and her brother Tyler. Why the Black Dahlia would influence the two's lives. Holly states that the grandmother listed as Tyler's next of kin is related to Tyler only and despite Elizabeth Short not having children (there is an abortion scene in flashback) what is the relationship between Holly, Tyler and Short? I can think of a few possibilities with a convoluted family tree, but again the film leaves this ambiguous. Weather Malcolm is related to The Black Dahlia Avenger and thus being controlled by the BDA or if he is an unlucky beachcomber who stumbled onto a knife that holds possession powers is again however, the movie leaves this vague.
Sound and effects
I alluded earlier in this review, those that cannot forgive technical errors in films will instantly discount The Black Daliah Haunting. The cell phone conversations are unintelligible while it seems like the scene where Holly comes face to face with the spirit of Elizabeth Short, I think they miked her flip-flops. The sound quality can get maddening at times and as the film has no captions, it can be a struggle to watch.
Hott Hottness Award™
Devanny Pinn is the Hott Hottness Award™ winner for The Black Dahlia Haunting. Despite having three knockout actresses in this film, Devanny commands ever scene in which she appears. She has a unique presence on screen and mesmerizing cadence when speaking. Devanny can effectively play both sexy and sweet.
Devanny has some great lines in The Black Dahlia Haunting and managed to look amazing caked with smudged makeup and deranged. And for the majority of my readers that only read this site, yes there is nudity in the film, however it is only basic cable nudity
Overall: The Black Dahlia Haunting is an impressive film for it's budget, though the budget constraints likely held back the ambitious idea to combine Film Noir with J-Horror. I like the concept and given more money and a tighter narrative and better source material, this concept could flourish. The acting is hit and miss but excellent at times and the visual cinematic theme can be eerie and stunning. Britt Griffith fans that watch this solely for his name will be very disappointed. If you are a fan of both genres and aren't hostile to rock bottom budgets, I'd recommend giving the film a fair chance for the concept alone. Mainstream audiences and casual movie fans looking for a conventional horror will likely be disappointed in The Black Dahlia Haunting. 6.5/10
Final Verdict: Probably Not Worth a Redbox Rental
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