A dozen young(ish) people are invited anonymously by text message to a creepy, creaky, dilapidated old house. They’ve been invited to a killer party with all the food and drink they like. A good time is sure to be had. However, when the time to leave comes, they all find, to their growing paranoia and terror, that the front door doesn’t open and that all the other doors inside the house lead to various rooms in which they will find nasty surprises, traps, magic tricks and dead-ends. Searching throughout, they begin to learn more about the history of the house and its previous occupants – but will they find a way out alive?
Upon reading the blurb for the film on the reverse of the sleeve, I was somewhat intrigued by the premise. It seemed like something that, if executed well, could be a genuinely unique and refreshing experience. Unfortunately, as I sat down to watch the film and the story began to unfold, my hopes sank.
I was not familiar with the work of writer-director Goldsby, however consulting IMDb I found that he has made a handful of previous films, mainly within the horror genre. On the strength of this film, I’m reluctant to seek out any of his back catalogue.
The overriding problem with the film is that it doesn’t exploit is premise to its fullest potential. The film begins in 1931 by teasing us, hinting that there is a rich backstory that the ensuing, modern-day set story will explore and draw from. This never really happens; a few brief flashbacks do little in the way of explaining the reason these characters are in their predicament. The script is clearly underdeveloped and weak. The same can also be said of the dialogue which is at best workmanlike and at worst clunky and generic. Performances from the typically attractive cast range from passable to inept and do very little to sell the situation the characters find themselves in, although, as already mentioned, the script gives them precious little opportunity to do so. Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Jackie Brown, The Dark Knight) is an undeniably intimidating, hulking presence as the chief antagonist of the film, but is sadly given very little to do and his role ends up being somewhat redundant.
Perhaps the most disappointing and frustrating facet of the film is just how light and unrewarding it is in terms of actual horror. The set-up to this film is slasher 101, and yet there is practically no slashing whatsoever. The only gruesome elements of the film are in aftermath shots which include the odd severed limb and victim bound to a chair, bloody and abused. Gorehounds will be bitterly disappointed with the lack of on-screen bloodletting. There are two very tame sex scenes; and as with gore, nudity is very light, and extends only to a pair of bare breasts in an unrelated scene.
This is not to say there is nothing of value here. There are some imaginative visuals which are shot well, editing is particularly strong, and the score is suitably eerie and goes a long way in establishing the mood and tone the director is striving for.
Ultimately, Death’s Door, is not by any means a truly ‘bad’ film, and remains watchable for its running time. But conversely, nor is it in any way truly memorable. It simply falls somewhere in the middle of direct-to-DVD horror releases. There are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and a half, but, similarly, there are far better ones as well.
The disc itself is by MVDvisual. Audio is good; the soundtrack is served well, although dialogue recording in one or two scenes is poor. Picture quality is solid; colours are bright where necessary and skin tones look good.
There are two extras on this DVD release. One is a music video for the track ‘Shorty Wassup’ which is also featured in the film. The second is a 7 minute featurette in which Goldsby and other cast and crew talk about their feelings of dread and fear of the house in which they shot the film, although it would’ve been a bit nicer to learn more about the making of the film itself.
Review by Matt Mills
|Released by MVD Visual|
|see main review|