The Black Dahlia Haunting
Cast: Devanny Pinn, Britt Griffth, Jessica Cameron
Writer and Director: Brandon Slagle
I am a big fan of horror movies that take their time in building up suspense and delivering the scares for the audience. When I become invested in a character(even if it’s one I don’t fully like) and something bad happens to him or her. I get involved and the horror feels a bit more real. There are a lot of other flicks that want to give you a quick scare in the first ten minutes. Which is fine, I love those films too. When I watch a Freddy or Jason movie, I’m watching it to see dumb kids make dumb choices and get killed for it. If shit doesn’t happen within the first five minutes. I’m going to be seriously pissed off. “The Black Dahlia Haunting” is known as a slow burn. Movies like “The Shining” and “Audition” are just two examples of these sort of films. Movies that you know something bad is going to happen, but you don’t know what or when it will be. In this movie you know what happens and to who, but are unsure of when.
Holly Jenson(Devanny Pinn)has come to visit her brother Tyler(Noah Dahl)in L.A. He has been convicted of killing their parents and is now in the care of Dr. Brian Owen(Britt Griffith). When they were kids Holly and Tyler use to talk all the time, but when she comes to meet him. There is a lot of resentment for her having left. The news about her parent’s death doesn’t upset Holly and you get the notion that she was most likely sexually abused by her father. Tyler has been blind for a long time, but now is drawing pictures of Elizabeth Short. If you don’t know who Elizabeth was. She was the victim labeled the Black Dahlia from that famous murder case of the 40’s. Right along the same time that he starts drawing these pictures. Holly starts seeing the woman herself and sometimes in really bad scenarios. What do these visions and the death of a woman over sixty years ago, have to do with what is going on with Holly and her family. Are both stories connected or are they just coincidences.
“The Black Dahlia Haunting” is a mystery that is easy enough to understand in terms of plot. But difficult to understand in terms of character motives. It’s good sign when a movie wants to show you something rather then just tell you it. Although sometimes I wish they would just tell me it. I’m still confused as to why this movie wanted to use things about The Black Dahlia murders mixed in with the story about Holly. They could have just made up some other story about another murdered girl from the past instead of using that famous case. Yet, director Brandon Slagle along with his cinematographer Jean -Pierre Lefvre are filmmakers that pay attention with each shot, so maybe there is something that I am not seeing within this. The movie has references to other mysteries including David Lynch’s “Lost Highway“,Richard Kelly’s “Donnie Darko” and in some instances Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan“. With sprinkles of J-Horror and Italian horror mixed in as well. The use of sound design is really effective especially in some of the flashback/dream sequences . However the use of loud drums every time a scene changes was a bit of an overkill.
The character of Holly is not a likeable person at first and I appreciated that we warm up to her as the film progresses. Devanny Pinn could have easily played her as the typical innocent heroine. But I’m glad there were things about her character that don’t get revealed right away. Britt Griffith and Noah Dahl are good in their performances as Dr. Brian Owen and Tyler Jenson. Yet there is not enough full details with in their scenes to help fully explain their motives. Without getting into too much spoilers. We learn that Dr. Brian Owen has alternative motives in helping Tyler. But I never fully understood the reasons why. I’m also confused about another character(played by Brandon Slagle) who is seen at the start getting images of The Black Dahlia by touching a sword. I’m still not sure what his connection is with all of this. There is a great flashback moment when Elizabeth Short(Alexia Iacono) tells Norma Jean(Jessica Cameron) about her self induced abortion. Both actresses are really good within this two minute scene and I would watch a full feature with just these two characters.
“The Black Dahlia Haunting” is a good horror mystery and although I was disappointed at what happens to certain characters at the end. It was still a decent watch. Despite it’s low budget, it features good acting, a nice score, and all around good pacing. There are moments that could have been trimmed and other I wish were longer. But it made me interested in seeing more movies from Brandon Slagle. You can check out his latest feature “House of Manson“. by clicking the highlighted link.