The Dead Center
When a mysterious amnesiac patient (Jeremy Childs) seemingly comes back from the dead after committing suicide, he believes he brought something back with him as strange events begin to occur at the psychiatric hospital he’s admitted to. The second feature film by writer-director Billy Senese, The Dead Center is a medical thriller with a sinister edge. But after opening with a grand statement of intent and seeding the pieces of an enticing premise, it soon becomes evident that the flick doesn’t know how to manifest its ideas in an interesting way.
To call Senese’s attempt at schlocky horror a slow-burner would be a criminal understatement. With a modest runtime of just over 90 minutes, it still takes this film the larger part of an hour to begin to develop some semblance of momentum for its narrative trajectory, as the two central subplots – a psychiatric doctor’s (Shane Carruth) interactions with the patient, and a medical examiner’s (Bill Feehely) investigation of the strange circumstances of the case – begin to come together at the end of the second act. Unfortunately, though, even with the narrative’s newfound sense of direction and urgency, all tension and stakes are squandered through an uninspired and rushed climax.
In spite of its uneven pacing – and overall lack of scares, for that matter – there are still moments of tension to be found here thanks to the sound design, which proves the importance that use of (or lack of) audio has in the genre, even when what’s on screen is less than terrifying. From inhuman screams to manipulation of dialogue, there is plenty audiophiles will want to turn up the sound for. Likewise, Senese occasionally includes some sensory-shattering imagery which, had it been explored further or incorporated more frequently into the film’s style, could have made for something far more unique and memorable than the end product.
It’s clear from the opening scenes and strange premise that The Dead Center was intended as good campy horror fun. However, the terrible pacing dulls the impact of the final act while making the first two a chore to sit through. After a handful of missed opportunities, this horror flick comes to little more than a Hallowe’en special of a medical drama.
The Dead Center is released in select cinemas on 11th October 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Dead Center here: