The Dead Center
(We brought back some spoilers with us) Some movies are so off your radar when they finally appear it makes you wonder how you ever missed it in the first place. It’s not unusual for a small independent movie to be pushed aside by movies with bigger budgets and studio backing. The Dead Center is one such movie.
In this case, The Dead Center was pushed aside by bigger budgeted horror movies like IT: Chapter Two and the heavily promoted Midsommar. Although these movies came out weeks before The Dead Center theaters are still having showings and both have been released on VOD. It’s a small miracle The Dead Center has made it on anyone’s radar.
The Dead Center isn’t a groundbreaking movie. The themes of possession and madness have been explored in countless movies. In the hand of a bigger studio,or even a medium sized production company like Blumhouse, it would have been another run-of-the-mill horror movie.
The movie is a simple story. Michael Clark (Jeremy Childs, Preacher) dies in a house fire with his wife and two children. Except, he didn’t die. Something brought him back to life. Something that is still inside Clark and it keeps bringing him back to life every time he kills himself.
Clark is lying on an autopsy table when the movie opens. For the viewer, it’s the first time we’re introduced to Clark. At this time he’s a John Doe. Whatever is inside him doesn’t keep him dead for very long. Clark makes his way to a hospital bed. He’s discovered by a nurse in and sent to a mental facility.
Once at the mental facility Clark is introduced to Dr. Daniel Forrester, played by Shane Carruth (Upstream Color). Forrester is a doctor who cares about his patients. It’s apparent from the drumming he’s given by his Sarah (Poorna Jagannathan, The Night Of), his boss, that he’s broken the rules a time or two in the past.
When he meets Clark he’s immediately drawn to him at first to help him, but then for other reasons completely outside the realm of psychology. Carruth is no stranger to this type of horror movie. He wrote, produced, and directed 2013’s mind bending, and very disturbing, Upstream Color.
Dr. Daniel Forester is the complete opposite of his character in Upstream Color. Carruth doesn’t have a lot of lines in Upstream Color. It’s mainly told in disjointed segments and voice overs. Carruth has to carry The Dead Center on his performance. Although the audience knows Forrester knows what is inside Clark and what he is going to do Carruth still has to convince the audience of what will happen if Clark is is allowed to live. Carruth is completely convincing in the role.
The Dead Center gets to the point rather quickly with a little help from Dr. Edward Graham (Bill Feehely). Graham was the medical examiner who was going to do the autopsy on Clark. Graham’s investigation into Clark’ s death leads him to some unsettling discoveries. Unlike Carruth, Feehely doesn’t have a lot of scenes where he plays off other actors. What he’s thinking and feeling is conveyed solely through his expressions. Because Feehely’s performance is so good things don’t have to be explained.
Clocking in at roughly 90 minutes The Dead Center doesn’t have a lot of time to draw things out. It’s a tight movie with no room for frivolous extras. In another movie we may have been given all sorts of back story. Most of the back story is revealed when Forrester hypnotizes Clark. The rest is revealed through Graham’s investigation into Clark’s death. Both men come to the same conclusion: Clark has to die.
The Dead Center ends with what can only be called a typical horror movie ending. The body jumping motif has been done dozens of times before. It’s almost a shame that a movie with brilliant visuals, creepy music, and great acting ends the way it does. In any other movie the end would be screaming “sequel.” Fortunately, low budget horror movies with limited original runs rarely get a sequel.
Arrow Video, as usual, has not disappointed on the extras for the Blu-ray release. There’s two commentary tracks with director Billy Senese and Carruth. Billy Sensese’s two prior short films are also included. There’s also a documentary on making the film which is the most entertaining of all the extras.