If you’re a viewer of the horror channel Chiller here in America, you may have remembered that the channel played a promo for their TV movie “Dead Souls” all the time. In fact for three months whenever I watched the channel, I was inundated with promos for the movie four times per commercial break. For a channel based around syndicated shows, there are a lot of commercial breaks, too. Finally watching “Dead Souls” I’m shocked the channel would provide so much hype for such a half baked and painfully boring horror drama that fails as horror, drama, and supernatural entertainment.
“Dead Souls” leads audiences by the hand in believing that everything in the plot is leading somewhere big. Perhaps there’s a big reveal in the end, or a surprising twist. In reality, the entire movie leads nowhere. I’m not sure why writer John Thoolan unfolds elements to the movie in bits almost as if there’s a big twist, but the movie delivers in slow increments of mounting plot points that do nothing but end in a thud. “Dead Souls” is almost a non-horror movie. It’s more of a tragic drama with horror elements, but the horror elements are lost in painfully boring drama and horrible writing.
What’s worse is that “Dead Souls” and its back drop are utterly convoluted to where I had to think about what the whole point of the villains were when the credits closed. By the time I figured it all out I thought “Well that was pointless.” It seems like writer Thoolan developed a script with epic potential, and had to scale it all down for a TV budget. So everything is either half assed, or not entirely fleshed out. Especially poor Bill Moseley who is pissed away with a throwaway character. For one thing, if main character Johnny’s mom doesn’t want him to know about his real past, then why does she haphazardly leave a letter for him about his will lying around? Is Johnny someone with potential for evil?
Why does his mom keep him confined to his house and without entertainment? Is his aunt just close to Johnny or is she trying to keep him close to collect his inheritance? If she’s as much as a religious fanatic as Johnny’s dad was, why wasn’t she in on the grand plot? If the family wanted to sacrifice themselves, why did the father have to chase them all down and murder them? And why are they stuck in the house as evil souls? Why is Johnny greeted by violent thugs in his old town who want him to leave? Nothing in the movie is remotely logical, and everyone just seems to stumble around delivering actions that are utterly ridiculous. If the towns people want Johnny to know about his past, why do they vandalize his house and try to violently storm in to his place?
After his father murdered his entire family, Johnny miraculously survives thanks to his big brother who hid him from his dad. Johnny is later saved and adopted by his aunt, who keeps him isolated, alienated, and coddled. Johnny receives a letter about his inheritance of his family’s old farm, and he begins to uncover things about his haunted past. I’m not sure why the agent assigned to Johnny doesn’t just tell him everything. Instead, he seems most insistent on signing the papers and collecting money. Why? Don’t worry, it leads to nothing. Johnny is also kind of a moron who doesn’t quite understand why the house lures him to it, but is more than open to welcoming a female squatter who he finds in the house.
She is at first very aggressive, but suddenly most intent on befriending Johnny and helping him discover the house’s legacy. He even invites her to stay with him, and she helps herself to whatever is in the house. “Dead Souls” carries on in a silly and derivative twist of plots, introducing inexplicably convenient plot devices, and for some reason tries to build scares out of goofy atmosphere. What, if anything, do the crows represent? Why does the lullaby trigger a memory? And do the ghosts want Johnny or not? “Dead Souls” is bereft of scares, logic, pure sense, and literally left me struggling to keep my eyes open from the tedium. It surely wasn’t worth the huge hype Chiller TV dealt it in 2012.
Featured on the Blu-Ray from Scream Factory is a seven minute blooper reel, a five minute set tour with director Colin Theys, those insufferable TV spots from Chiller in a four minute compilation, and finally, a commentary with Director Theys, and Screenwriter John Doolan, along with producer Andrew Gernhard. Most of the commentary is fairly lifeless and dull, so it matches up with the film well.