Nothing beats a good ghost story. From Sixth Sense to The Others to The X-Files’ episode “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”, these are the stories that got me into writing in the first place.
Thus it comes as no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to watch Deadline, a haunted house movie featuring Brittany Murphy as Alice, a screenplay writer isolating herself for a week in an old, beautiful, big Victorian-style house in the middle of nowhere to finish a script before deadline. But like many writers, procrastination becomes her enemy as she sets out to explore the house. A box of home videos in the attic leads Alice to discover a love story gone wrong that the house had hosted not too long ago. And as she watches the videos, she soon comes to realise that something went horribly wrong.
What Deadline lacks in originality and plot it makes up for with a ghost story-perfect ambiance. The cinematography is impeccable; the images are striking and the lighting – or lack thereof – beautifully combines the needed darkness with just about enough light to see what’s going on. This is crucial for me, as I cannot stand scenes where you can’t see anything that’s happening — they are an easy way to create tension.
By the same token, there is only one cheap scare, although the ambiance is perfectly set for them. It’s quite impressive that the director, Sean McConville, manages to convey so much creepiness as well as manages to rattle nerves so well without cheap thrills. It underlines how this movie is really about ambiance and paranoia. While some might complain that, compared to other scary movies that were produced in the last couple of years, this one barely raises the viewers’ blood pressure, I beg to differ; what it lacks in big jumps and heart-pounding scenes, Deadline makes up for by creating a light fog of creepiness that seeps into you as you keep watching.