Friday, October 18, 2019

Home video debut for Billy Senese's pretty-good hospital horror flick, THE DEAD CENTER

Opening theatrically only last week, for a very limited release and soon to be available via home video, THE DEAD CENTER, a relatively quiet, unusual hospital-set horror/thriller written and directed by Billy Senese (his sophomore effort in the full-length division) turns out to be worth a watch due to its highly unsettling atmospherics and storytelling techniques. Something awful is happening from the get-go, but so fractured is what we initially see -- yet so weirdly fascinating -- that we hold on, and on, as some sort of explanation is slowly given us.

Mr. Senese, pictured at left, knows how to do low-key scares quite well, along with providing a group of just slightly off-kilter characters, all of them -- even the killer -- sympathetic in their individual pain and torment.

Further, he has set his film mostly in and around a beleaguered city hospital, barely surviving the usual cost-cutting measures to keep things going, even if they're going not so well.

At the enter of the tale are two men: a caring, if hugely problematic doctor (played by Shane Carruth, below) and a seemingly risen-from-the-dead John Doe (Jeremy Childs, further below), who has disappeared from the morgue, after having already killed some folk, and who will soon begin yet another murder rampage.

For a nice change, this hospital seems to have a mostly caring staff, who treat the patients -- in this mental health division, at least -- with as much respect as it can muster, given the economic situation which well reflects our current times of hospitals under-staffed or simply closing down.

Meanwhile, a third character -- a forensic doctor played by Bill Feehely -- trying to locate that missing corpse begins piecing together evidence of who this very weird fellow is, along with what, maybe, is actually going on.

These three men come together, sort of, at the finale, which is a wild, horrific thing, somewhat tamped down by the filmmaker's refusal to push murder and gore ahead of his more human, character-driven concerns.

The film's problems, for TrustMovies, at least, involve a plot in which, despite the "mystery" in front of us, things still seems a bit too obvious, so that we keep ahead of the game by just enough to grow impatient to get to the final stage. We do, but even that seems just a tad derivative of other sci-fi/horror outings.

As too often happens, the mystery is a lot more fun than its solution, and again, the journey is better than the destination. But Senese and his fine cast certainly keep us going -- and thinking and wincing as we move along.

From Arrow Video (released here in the states via MVD Entertainment Group) and running 93 minutes, The Dead Center (not sure just what that title is meant to signify, other than death) will hit the street this coming Tuesday, October 22, on Blu-ray and DVD for purchase and (I hope) rental.

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