Dead Still is a new Syfy channel original movie directed by Philip Adrian Booth. The film stars Ben Browder, Ray Wise, Elle LaMont and Gavin Casalegno.
Browder plays a freelance photographer called Brandon Davis, who shares custody of his son, Bobby (Casalegno), with his ex-wife (played by Steffie Grote). One day, Davis receives a letter informing him that he’s inherited a gloomy old mansion from his deceased grandfather. Whilst inspecting the property, Davis discovers an old nineteenth century camera that was used for Victorian death photography. He starts using the old camera in his work, leading to disastrous consequences – it turns out that when he takes a photo of someone with the camera they die a rather gruesome death. The camera has supernatural powers, and the souls of the unlucky ones who are killed by it end up trapped inside the camera. Davis must find a way to free the trapped souls and also destroy the camera itself.
Dead Still excels in some areas but falters in others: the cinematography, music, lighting and make up effects are all decent considering the film’s low budget. It also has plenty of gore for fans who like that stuff and decent pacing as there are rarely any dull moments. Some of the main players also deliver good performances, as does a young newcomer by the name of Evelyn Boyle. Browder is convincing as a man who prefers to view life through a camera lens while maintaining a safe distance, which makes him a rather remote presence. He also avoids trying to form any new relationships with anyone, even rejecting the advances of his sexy assistant (played by LaMont).
Some of the performances from the supporting cast members are lamentable though, including Professor McKlaren (played by Eric Ruff) and Zamora Brasinsky (Natalie Mejer). Both actors ham it up a bit too much and they chew way too much scenery – such performances are out of place in a movie that seems to be playing it fairly straight. The screenplay is also a bit weak, as key events in the film seem to happen at random and are left unexplained. This problem undermines the drama in certain scenes and it makes the plot seem untidy.
Dead Still works best when it focuses on Brandon’s bond with his son and his attempts to save the people trapped inside the camera. The film manages to succeed in making him a likeable character who is easy to root for, which is always a benefit. It’s also refreshing to see a horror film which doesn’t rely on clichéd jump scares; it’s just a shame it’s let down by some dubious acting and a weak script.