[The Black Dahlia Haunting]
Synopsis:While investigating the murder of her father by her blind younger brother, a young woman disturbs the vengeful spirit of Elizabeth Short, known in legend as "The Black Dahlia".
My Thoughts:A very ambitious effort.
Review:The Black Dahlia is one of Hollywood's more tragic stories of an aspiring actress who ended up meeting a grissly end during her attempt at living her dreams as a big Hollywood starlet. Her real name was Elizabeth Short. Originally from Boston, like many, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress. She was born in 1924, and died in 1947.
She was tragically murdered, and to this day, despite many suspects...the killer has not officially been jailed for the crime. Brandon Slagle's film, "The Black Dahlia Haunting"...uses the starlet as a basis for its story. Adding in a hypothetical "what if?", of the spirit of her and her murderer...possibly still haunting the city of Los Angeles. The pic is centered on Holly Jenson (Pinn), who arrives in L.A. from New York, to take custody of her institutionalized, blind, younger brother. Who has been locked up for killing his father.
But once she arrives in town, her business there is interrupted by spirits that are not at rest. I am always skeptical of possession movies. Especially indies. Most of them are not very well done. It's all in the fx really. And the story as well. But mostly the acting. If your actress is crap, the fx are pedestrian, and the story is weak...then it's doomed. "The Black Dahlia Haunting" is a small-budget movie.
So there isn't going to be any super special fx here involved in this possession/spirit travel story. But I wasn't expecting that. However...I also wasn't expecting the possession angle to be handled so well in a movie on such a modest budget! The filmmakers come up with some creative ways to make the scenes of possession work well within the context of the story. And not come off as mishandled to the viewer.
The story has tight reigns kept on it in the terms of the characters involved. Pinn's character Holly is the female lead of course. And along with her, the only other major players in this "web of horror" is Griffith as Dr. Brian Owen, Dahl as Holly's brother Tyler, and Director Slagle himself, makes an appearance in the movie as the very disturbed Malcolm.
So you don't lose track of characters here, and this makes it easier to hone in, and see where this story is going, can go, and will go. As it focuses on just a few major characters. With some bit players introduced here and there just to beef up any plot points that come in later on. But there's also a strong mystery element within the movie as well.
And when that hits its stride, along with the further implementation of the Black Dahlia legend into the story, this movie really takes off! I refer to "The Black Dahlia Haunting" is what I call throwback horror in a way. It's less about throwing stuff on screen like blood, guts, and carnage. And more about psychologically scaring the viewer, while also keeping them heavily intrigued by unfolding events. The characters are given much to do also.
Pinn's character Holly is not only trying to straighten out her family issues, but also deal with the demons of her own family. She eventually becomes possessed by the Black Dahlia herself. But she's also being targeted by Malcolm. For a reason that the film dangles over us for quite some time as a "mystery". But a much more perceptive viewer might be able to piece things with Malcolm and Holly together earlier than is revealed. I sort of did. But the reveal was still much appreciated for its creative strides. Meanwhile, Malcolm seems to be this ticking time bomb.
While Holly's brother Tyler seems to be the key to everything happening here. If only though, he'd just spill the beans about the murder of his dad. Then there's Dr. Owen. Who on the outside, seems harmless enough, but seems also to be hiding..."something". So as you can see, "TBDH" has many different moving parts. And much credit should be given to Slagle for penning such a workmen-like script. I think people who see this movie will also appreciate that it delves slightly into the Black Dahlia legend, but enough to allow it to overshadow the movie itself. The film is a standalone story.
That uses The Black Dahlia in a few flashbacks, and plot points...as a BASE for its OWN story. So don't expect a retread here of the entire Black Dahlia story. This isn't a cinematic Biography or re-telling or reimagining of the Black Dahlia murder. Instead, it's its own movie, with bits and pieces of the legend mixed in to further an already strong, supernatural story. One of the films more memorable scenes involves Holly visiting a location where we see Malcolm visit at the very start of the movie.
In this scene Holly has sort of an "out of body experience" of sorts. Which display actress Pinn's acting chops pretty well. In a very twisted scene that for many actresses, would be difficult to handle considering the quick character turn around's involved. I also think Pinn fit the bill for the movie pretty well look wise also.
She has the necessary type of look of which can double as both sweet and evil when necessary. Thus, this enhances her character of Holly/Possessed Holly in certain scenes when necessary. If this movie has one fault though, it would be the directing. For the most part it was on point, but some scenes go to black too early or don't transition smoothly to the next.
This doesn't happen often enough to be a debbie-downer however. But is it noticeable? Sure. Perhaps though, this will be cleaned up in editing before the film ultimately lands a DVD release somewhere this year or next. All in all, if you're a fan of no-budget indie genre flicks, and are looking for something with a more ambitious-than-usual storyline and approach to its story, you should give "The Black Dahlia Haunting" a whirl.
THE GOOD:Like I said, I always appreciate a filmmaker who tries to elevate his story above his budget or resources. The performances were good also. The movie also had two very creepy scenes. One of which involving Holly at the location scene at the start. The other features Alexis Iacono on a street corner in broad daylight doing her best impression of The Black Dahlia back from the grave!
THE BAD:Not sure if it was maybe the camera used or what have you but some scenes didn't transition into other scenes smoothly enough. Again, this could be an editing issue so it's not a huge deal.
OVERALL:Three and a half stars out of four.
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