Written & Directed By: Brandon Slagle
Victoria Amissus-Alexis Iacono
Auriel Servus-Devanny Pinn
Kier Than-Brandon Slagle
Castor Pollux-Britt Griffith
Dr. Peyton Hamilton-Frederic Doss
Adam Than-Ryan Kiser
Writer/Director Brandon Slagle's follow up to last year's successful "The Black Dahlia Haunting", "Dead Sea" manages to avoid the sophomore jinx by relying on: strong characters, taut action sequences, and intricate plot threads. Set in a small, lakeside town, this "creature feature" with a brain combines a lot of familiar elements of genre fare into an interesting, fast paced feature.
After a violent Gulf War setpiece involving Kier (Slagle) and Castor (Griffith), and a "Piranha" inspired boat party gone horribly wrong, we find marine biologist Victoria (Iacono) returning to her hometown to investigate a recent rash of mysterious fish kills, and we soon learn that her connection to this town isn't all pleasant childhood memories.
A large hungry seas beast is awaiting it's next meal, Victoria is making science sexy again while also dealing with daddy issues, Kier and Castor are involved in less-than-legal activities, and Auriel washes up on a beach full of dead fish looking hotter than she did when she went into the drink--these things and more are what make "Dead Sea" a great watch. Throw in a Lovecraft (and more than a few shades of Stephen King) inspired sub-plot involving the entire town and the suspense just ratchets from there.
Great performances from an excellent ensemble cast (many ported over from the aforementioned "Black Dahlia") and an engrossing story make the monster almost secondary in this study in small town America and the relationships and secrets that hide just under the surface. Iacono and Pinn are both brilliant, and Griffith's acting chops just keep getting better. Superbly shot, with some really effective underwater camera work, "Dead Sea" is technically sound as well. Slagle's previous efforts are carefully timed exercises in suspense, while containing intricate plots that just suck you in (no pun intended...), and "Dead Sea" shows a director honing his craft. Keeping the plot accessible while maintaining his "signature" style of complex characters, a cerebral narrative, and a strange disconnect between camera and viewer, this is definitely a unique film that keeps the focus more on the players as opposed to dazzling effects.
Combining the elements from at least half a dozen sub-genres into an intelligent, cohesive, and ultimately entertaining film is no small task. Slagle and company have proven to up to the challenge--"Dead Sea" is another winner!