Review by Ed Blackadder
Lead Entertainment Writer
Mediocre, Micro-budget Indie Effort…
I watched The Black Dahlia Haunting, based on the rave reviews I was reading, and can honestly say I haven’t a clue what the fuss was about. I watch and review independent films on a daily basis, so I kinda knew it would be a bit rough, and lowered my expectations accordingly. It made little difference, as I just saw a semi-decent film, that was fairly well acted, but the writing I found lacking; the dialogue seemed clumsy and unconvincing, and really dragged the production down a few notches. I know I’m being critical, but, here’s the thing; that’s what I do.
The Black Dahlia Haunting, is about a woman, Holly Jensen (Devanny Pinn), who is called out to L.A. by a doctor who cares for her half-brother, Tyler (Noah Dahl). Tyler has been blind since he was a kid, but, somehow managed to shoot his parents dead. Doc Owen (Britt Griffith) is now in charge of Tyler, who has become a Ward of the State, and the doc has asked Holly to come and meet with him (and where we witness some very clumsy dialogue). Tyler has been drawing accurate pictures of Elizabeth Short (the real Black Dahlia), and half-sister Holly has been having bad dreams, which appear to be connected. The ghost of Miss Short has somehow been disturbed and now wants to open a can of whoopass on person or persons unknown to us — yet.
Sounds like a pretty good premise (I don’t mean the way I’ve just written it), and the story is actually the best thing about the film, and of course, the acting, but, it just didn’t do it for me. I really enjoyed the way actor/director Slagle used little in the way of CG, and in particular the way he handled it. The smoke effect was only shown briefly which made a huge difference. Others tend to go in heavy, in an attempt to compensate for lacking a budget, so, The Black Dahlia Haunting had that in its favour.
Twelve minutes in, and the first scene that best shows my concerns with the writing, is when Doc Owen and Holly first meet. They sit down and talk about Tyler. Actually, there’s the scene immediately before with the doofus on the waiting room couch, but now I am nit-picking. Holly telling the Doc caring for Tyler her brother’s blind, and the Doc telling her he knows that — “obviously.”
Even so, this film was put together for a mere $2 grand, (apparently, the IMDb stated sum of $125 thousand is wrong, and Mr Slagle kindly pointed that fact out to me) and is extremely good by any standards, but I haven’t read a thing where anyone is saying anything critical. I’ll put my hands up to being one of the first who wasn’t as impressed as everyone else. However, credit where credit’s due. Kudos to Brandon Slagle for getting this done on that micro-budget, and for creating a scene where I felt uncomfortable, but it did need better dialogue written for the characters.
I will add this. I’ve never seen a film put together for less than the price of a high-end digital camera, and it come out so well. I think this film will be one to beat for future filmmakers who plead poverty and use it as excuse for shoddy work. From now on we can all point to The Black Dahlia Haunting, and say, “If Brandon Slagle can do it for two thousand…”
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