Written and Directed by Sean McConville
Before we start, I would like to briefly discuss the notion of being entirely up for any writers/directors, whoever trying to present something in a manner that at the end of the film has people wondering: “what the heck did I just see?” There is however a limit as to how far one can take such an idea, where it becomes them losing more of their audience than gaining interested parties. Which was such the case with Deadline; the first time I saw this, a somewhat blank expression came over my face as I wasn’t all to sure how to necessarily react to what I had just seen.
We first meet Alice (Brittany Murphy) and Rebecca (Tammy Blanchard) who appear to be packing up to retreat to a location so she could write. A slight attempt to change Alice’s mind is met with being told of a complete impossibility, already being behind of her deadline. Getting a gun out to bring with, being a “just in case” measure, mentioning her ex Ben, who would be out of jail soon. Having no doubt of him trying to find her once again. They arrive to the house that a very nice rich guy was kind enough to lend Alice for the week. Taking in their scenery and checking out what the house has to offer. Retreating to the bedroom Alice would be staying in, the two sharing a bit of light conversation as Rebecca states how much she was going to miss her. Inquiring as to how much longer she was planning to keep her a secret from everyone. The interpretation of what may actually be going on between these two being somewhat open. At first it does appear that they could in fact be lovers; the other end of the spectrum being that Rebecca was a nurse that took care of her after getting out of the hospital. And they simply enjoyed each other’s company, but remains left open for interpretation.
While looking throughout the house Rebecca finds Alice in a half set-up nursery, taking her to the kitchen in order to put up the rest of the groceries and say their goodbyes. All the while having a video camera semi attached to her hand, Alice works her way back up to the bedroom. Preparing for a nightly regimen of moisturizer, taking her medication and barely missing a glimpse of a ghost in the mirror that let’s us know she’s not alone. While having started writing, Alice receives a phone call, overcome by great suspicion as nobody seems to reply back. While trying to sleep later that night a sound causes her to wake and she grabs her camera, led to one of the houses many rooms where a chair falls over on its own. Spooky huh? Turning out to be nothing more than a bad dream she awakes with the need of taking a bath. Continued eerie sounds and strange occurrence’s begin to happen throughout the house. Trying once again to write, she receives a phone call from Rebecca who starts by asking Alice not to get upset about what she was about to hear; Ben had gotten out of jail the prior night. Suddenly angry and attempting to get back to work, Alice tries to gather her emotions, unsure of how to carry on the remainder of her stay.
Whatever’s in the house clearly tries to send some type of message as she awakes once again to find a shadow pass by the door rather quickly. She ends up following it to the room visited in her sleep. Rifling through a suitcase first, moving next to a secret compartment beckoning her and making its presence known. Filled with several tapes that just so happen to fit in the type of camera she owned. Which follow Lucy (Thora Birch) and David (Marc Blucas) who were the “happy couple” that lived there before. What happens however is that Alice absorbs this past life through the camera’s eye, becoming more intrigued at how the couple lived and getting sub-sequentially tossed into the realm of what was real and what was streamed from her own past indiscretion.
Discussing the rest of the movie in detail wouldn’t make sense due to the, well, lack of sense that could be confused throughout. Which essentially is this: recently Alice had endured a mental breakdown due to her ex. Who upon finding out she had been pregnant, attempted to drown her in the bathtub because he was certain of it not being his. Tying in with David and Lucy in that it seems to follow a similar pattern through the tapes that Alice is viewing as she tries to piece together the story. The couple’s relationship is full of mystery and intrigue as it’s made obvious that David doesn’t put any trust into his wife, constantly questioning her every move. I hadn’t seen Birch in anything worth seeing since Ghost World, though she did okay in this role. But Blucas certainly stole the show. I do wish I would see him in more roles; he’s usually pretty funny and maintains that whole “wholesome American boy image.” I do believe him to be capable of much more than just that. He was excellent in this role. As well, Murphy did a nice job of playing the scared and helpless victim. However not exactly sure of where the story wanted to go because it was never made clear. It just worked to be mysterious without much reason.
David seems to follow Lucy quite past the point of discontent, feeling the need of documenting everything for their child to see. Yet getting caught up in his love ridden derangement and unable to differ between his perceived reality and what is actually such. An example of one night Lucy going out with a friend to inform of her pregnancy. David ever so slyly trying to get information on this “friend” and who in fact “she” was. Asking if this friend was single and seeming to have forgotten that this person and her husband had in fact, stood in their wedding. Another example of while hearing her gab on the phone and enjoying conversation one night, approaching her to demand who she was talking. Followed by accusations of having another lover. He waits for her to leave the room before pressing redial as he hears his mother’s voice as told by Lucy who she had been talking to. The last video shows David tying up his wife and more or less dominantly demanding her to confess what he “knows to be true.” A look of disgust overwhelms his face as he drags his pregnant wife to the bathroom, drowns her and takes her outside to bury her in the yard. After of which he goes up to the attic and hangs himself. Alice retreats outside where she receives a call from her ex who apologizes for what he had done to her and that he was going to leave her alone finally; setting her free. The added catch towards the end being that had Alice kept the last video going she would have seen that there was actually more to what happened the night of Lucy’s death.
Rebecca comes back to the house stating how worried she had been from not hearing anything all week. (Though Alice does call her a couple different times throughout, having an entire conversation about David and Lucy even) She finds Alice in a disturbing position in the bathtub, putting her into bed and saying she shouldn’t have left her all alone. Finding a completed manuscript near the bed with exact scenes we’ve spent the last hour watching.
Having seen the movie for the 3rd or so time I have come to a conclusion of what could/may have happened from my own perspective. The bad thing about that being that if I truly wanted, I could probably construct another resolutions as to what may have actually happened as well. It was way too over the place. If you plan on making a “confusing” tale, at least let your audience understand things the second time around. If it takes more than that the general audience is going to toss it out of their mind for the most part.
Another facet of Alice being the fact that she too, would use the camera to record Rebecca the few times we see them together. Showing an obvious similarity to David. Then of course we have the fact that what Alice witnessed on the tapes was just about the exact same thing that she went through. While she is supposed to take medication regularly it seems that may have not been the case of which Rebecca tries to recover from quickly for Alice. Could it really be that much of a coincidence of her ending up in that house and being presented with all that information? My own theory of the movie being the most obvious…in that clearly she hadn’t been taking her medication as should because of Rebecca saying she hadn’t talked to her all week. As well that maybe while she did find tapes of the couple that lived there prior, that the story that she followed had actually been her own. So what she thought she was seeing was simply what her mind was perceiving from the recent trauma having endured. Then in the beginning of the movie Rebecca suggests writing something personal to maybe help her heal of which Alice replies having no interest in doing. Well, the finished product left me indifferent on how to feel on this one. Another good intention but poor execution unfortunately.