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Three Horror Films from Maple Pictures

Dead Doll (October 25/05)

It's hard to describe just how thoroughly terrible Dead Doll is; it's one of those things where you can't truly understand until you see it for yourself. Suffice it to say, though, that the film is an utterly interminable and hopelessly pointless horror flick that brings shame to its straight-to-video brethren. The story - what little there is - has something to do with a demented sculptor who murders his girlfriend in a fit of rage and turns her into a sex doll. The remainder of the movie follows a host of victims as they find themselves entranced by the dead doll, who may or may not still be alive. There's a distinct vibe of confusion swirling around Dead Doll, as the filmmakers never make it clear just what's going on here (ie is the titular character dead or isn't she?) Director Adam Sherman attempts to liven things up with sporadic instances of style, but the smoky atmosphere and overly ambitious camerawork only serves to heighten the feeling of amateurishness. Dead Doll is an infuriating waste of time, and - because there's absolutely no plot and certainly no interesting characters - the film comes off as 78-minutes worth of padding.

no stars out of

The Off Season (August 18/05)

While The Off Season is admittedly fairly well made - particularly when compared to other low-budget, direct-to-video horror flicks - it's impossible to overlook the film's astoundingly dull plot, which plays out like The Shining crossed with a contemporary ghost story. The movie revolves around Kathryn (Christina Campenella) and Rick (Don Wood), a couple of New Yorkers who decide to rent a cheap motel room during the off season so Rick can get some writing done. Of course, it's not long before Rick starts to display a few unusual personality changes; the strange phone calls from Kathryn's dead mother and the expanding blood stain on the mattress certainly aren't helping matters. Aside from the fact that no two rational people would stay put in this place for more than a couple of minutes, The Off Season suffers from a distinct feeling of pointlessness; although writer/director James Felix McKenney peppers the film with a few surprisingly effective scares, far too much of the story is devoted to sequences in which the characters engage in long, painfully banal conversations. The amateurish performances only make matters worse, though Angus Scrimm does a nice job of playing Rick and Kathryn's off-kilter neighbor. And then there's the confusing third act, which culminates in a conclusion that raises far more questions than it answers. It's clear that McKenney does have some talent, but despite his best efforts, The Off Season can't help but feel like a short that's unnaturally been expanded to feature length.

out of

Undead (October 8/05)

While there's no denying that Peter and Michael Spierig - who wrote and directed Undead - deserve some kudos for attempting to infuse the zombie genre with some new life (no pun intended), the filmmakers' admittedly innovative storyline is just too rambling and too convoluted to really make much of an impact on the viewer. The basic plot - the residents of a small town start turning into zombies after a mysterious meteor shower - is augmented with superfluous twists and turns that are initially intriguing but eventually become overwhelming. It's clear right from the get-go that the Spierig brothers have seen a lot of movies - Undead features a whole host of visual references to various filmmakers (check out the John Woo-inspired picture above) - and indeed, it's the visuals that quickly prove to be the most intriguing aspect of the film. But as a horror movie, Undead just doesn't work; the quirky vibe makes it impossible to find any of this even remotely scary, something that becomes increasingly true as the film progresses. In the end, Undead is a decent zombie flick that's undermined by a thoroughly baffling third act - though it seems obvious that the Spierigs are destined to go onto bigger and better things.

out of

About the DVD: Maple Pictures presents each of these three films with crisp transfers, and though bonus features on Dead Doll and The Off Season are almost non-existent, Undead comes armed with a whole host of extras (including two commentary tracks, a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, and much more).
© David Nusair