The Black Dahlia Haunting (2012)
Vengeful souls live forever…
Written and Directed By: Brandon Slagle
Devanny Pinn—Holly Jenson
Britt Griffith—Dr. Brian Owen
Noah Dahl—Tyler Jenson
Alexis Iacono—Elizabeth Short
Cleve Hall—Steven Cordell
Jessica Cameron—Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe
WARNING—REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I’ve said it many times, to many people: “Brandon Slagle is a talented writer/director and one of these days he’s going to make an epic horror film”. With “The Black Dahlia Haunting” he may have just done it.
Setting a dark and foreboding tone, you can tell from the first 5 minutes that there will be no happy endings here. Intensity, mood, and atmosphere are the order of the day for Mr. Slagle as he tells the story of a young woman (Pinn) coming to the aid of her estranged younger brother (Dahl), who is accused of murdering their parents. Melding elements of both fact and fiction, “TBDH” is an excellent example of: shots that seem both lush and sparse, scenes that are both frightening and emotionally wrenching, characters that are both benevolent and malignant, and it’s this juxtaposition style of film making that makes this picture so un-nerving and disturbing. Those familiar with the legendary case know that there have been reams of material written, not to mention miles of film shot, trying to fit the puzzle of the famously unsolved case together. Slagle manages to bring a fresh, unique take on this well tread territory by weaving a sinister tale of a spirit that definitely is not “resting in peace”, and that may or may not have the best intentions in mind when “helping” the people she haunts/possesses. A shower scene between Pinn and Iacono, particularly, ratchets up the creepiness to “11”, proving that Slagle, rather than taking the gratuitous route, would rather further add to the slow burn of unease that leads to the grim certainty of the film’s cruel climax.
Any film lives or dies (pun intended) on the merits of it’s cast. With “TBDH” the cast is nearly perfect! Noah Dahl’s portrayal of a blind, obviously disturbed young man is chillingly convincing, Britt Griffith as the doctor who slowly gives in to his perverse desires brings to mind Nicholson in “The Shining” (and that’s not the only thing Kubrick-esque that you’ll find in this film), and the gorgeous Alexis Iacono brings all of the glamour and hedonism of “old Hollywood” to vibrant, full-blooded life as the titular character. Devanny Pinn shines through the gloom as Holly, the young woman at the center of the evil goings on, and her descent into madness (or redemption) is rendered with precision and emotion, in fact, this is one of the finest performances I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this year. Slagle, who does the “paranoid crazy guy” better than anyone in the business, gives a believable twist as Malcolm. Cleve Hall (t.v.’s “Monsterman”), also brings to requisite sleazy creepiness to Steven Cordell, the man behind the original murder, the outright glee he brings to a sadistic set-piece has to be witnessed to be believed! Glamming it up to excellent effect as Marilyn Monroe, Jessica Cameron makes an appearance that will only serve to add to her increasingly impressive resume. Perfect casting is another facet to this dark diamond.
“The Black Dahlia Haunting” is a triumph for all involved for the simple fact that it delivers. No “gross outs”, no “torture porn”, and no “jump scares”, just a precise, effective ghost story, told and executed by an extremely gifted group of horror’s “new guard”, proving that budget, once again, will never top talent.
An enthusiastic 10 of 10!