Starring Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch, Tammy Blanchard
"Stop filming me!"
The idea of pitting crazy-eyed spazz Brittany Murphy against bosomy cool grrl Thora Birch in a bump-in-the-night shocker is drool-worthy enough, but throw in a lesbian subplot and you've got a sure winner on your hands, right?
Umm. Well. Here's the thing. Murphy and Birch are never actually in the movie together. Unless you count ghosts.
The plot goes something like this. Murphy plays Alice Evans, a manic-depressive screenwriter trying to get over a miscarriage caused by a violent boyfriend. Said boyfriend is now in prison, and Alice has settled into a more leisurely Sapphic lifestyle with her girlfriend, Rebecca (soap actress Tammy Blanchard, who happens to be a deadringer for whinnying porn star Dana DeArmond). As the story opens, the already frazzled Alice is falling behind on her latest screenplay. In order to make her deadline, she accepts the offer of a sketchy producer acquaintance to stay at his rarely used, completely isolated country home, so that she might find the solace and solitude needed to get the job done. What could go wrong with that plan, right?
Wary Rebecca drives Alice to the house and, against her better judgment, leaves her there. Almost immediately, Alice starts to hear strange noises in the cavernous, empty house, so she Scooby Doos around the joint to see what she can find. While tooling around in the attic, she finds a wooden box filled with digital videotapes. She starts watching them on her laptop, and central narrative unfolds.
The tapes document the life of a young couple who have recently moved into this self-same house. Lucy (Thora Birch) is pregnant and grumpy. Her husband David (Marc Blucas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is both possessive and clingy. He insists on filming Lucy day and night, ostensibly to provide a record for their unborn child. This drives Lucy nuts, and in each subsequent tape, the two grow more and more at odds. In the last tape, Lucy attempts to leave, but David stops her, drags her to the attic, and ties her to a chair. And that's where their story ends. Or does it?
One more tape case remains in the box, but the tape itself is missing. Alice goes in search for it, and finds, to her horror, that she is not in the house alone.
There's a good three or four twist-endings to endure before Deadline finally screeches to a halt. That's the biggest problem with this film, it tries to cram too many ideas into what should be a very simple haunted house thriller. A lot of the so-called 'intrigue' involves Alice's state of mind. Is she taking her pills? Is she hallucinating all these events? Is this house really filled with ghosts? It is impossible to tell, really, since we never know whether Alice is crazy or just inquisitive. Casting Murphy - who always seems sorta crazy, no matter what the role - only furthers to muddy the already too-busy story.
Still, it's always fun to watch Brittany Murphy twitch, and she looks great - a quick glimpse early on of her jeans-clad ass is nearly worth the price of admission. Who knew such a skinny girl could have such a shapely butt? Unfortunately for Thora fans, she's thoroughly de-glammed here, her epic rack kept under loose granny dresses. So that's a bummer.
She does make a pretty awesome zombie, though.
- Ken McIntyre