Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Gravedancers (2006)

On the strength of Mike Mendez's amusing splatstick debut The Convent, I'd been looking forward to his followup feature. Now that it's finally here and I've seen it, all I can muster is a hearty, "So what?" Mendez is working in a more serious vein with The Gravedancers, the overt comedy of The Convent replaced by creeping dread and a quietly droll sense of humor, and I can't fault him for that. In terms of technical aspects, the film is good enough to mark Mendez as worth keeping an eye on. Neither can the artistic design team be faulted -- the cinematography is appropriately moody and dark, and the makeup effects are first-rate. (The little-boy ghost is especially creepy.) So it's not how it looks that's the problem, it's how it sounds. The screenplay, though obviously penned by two guys with much affection for the genre (note the occasional clever skirting of cliche and tweaking of convention -- this is the first horror film I've seen in years in which someone suggests that the characters not split up), is full of hackneyed dialogue and goes light on character work, substituting sketches for insight. In cases like this, a crew of good actors can fill in the blanks with unspoken understanding; more often, though, such faults are further exacerbated by stiff stars, which is the case here. The worst offender is the lead actor -- the credits tell me that his name is Dominic Purcell, but I know it's really Old Chief Wood'nhead under an alias. So what we have is slight, dull characters portrayed by slight, dull actors. Not for nothing, but the only character I gave a crap about was Culpepper, the assistant to Tchéky Karyo's paranormal psychologist; not only is she cute and smart, but she gets most of the good laugh lines. The last twenty minutes or so are effective, and Karyo gets a great closing line; shame then about the other hour-ten.

Grade: C


Blogger Kza said...

Ah, good ol' Dominic Purcell. I really do enjoy Prison Break, but man is he awful on that show. And as my wife says: button up your shirt already!

4:33 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

He's like Gerard Butler after dental surgery, I swear. All mumbles and beef.

1:39 PM  

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