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The Dead Center Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

The Dead Center Large

Written and directed by Billy Senese
2018, 93 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 22nd, 2019

Shane Carruth as Daniel Forrester
Poorna Jagannathan as Sarah Grey
Jeremy Childs as John Doe
Bill Feehely as Edward Graham
J. Thomas Bailey as Travis
Maureen Wildman as Ms. Lewis
Jessejames Locorriere as Kevin Burke

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Late one night, a John Doe is brought to the morgue where he is examined, photographed and tagged before being placed in a holding room. Once left alone, the corpse sits up and struggles to escape its body bag. John Doe makes his way into the main hospital and finds a quiet room to get some sleep. Discovered the next morning in a catatonic state, he is transferred to the psychiatric ward and Dr. Daniel Forrester admits him for treatment, flaunting hospital policy regarding the cost of accepting walk-ins. Meanwhile, medical investigator Edward Graham is looking for answers regarding the missing body and to learn its identity. Graham visits the motel where the corpse was discovered and finds some disturbing clues.

Back at the hospital, Dr. Forrester conducts a series of psychiatric interviews and uses hypnotherapy to spark a reaction in his new patient. John Doe becomes briefly lucid and begs the doctor to kill him. He says he committed suicide to stop the evil growing inside him but fears he has brought something back from the other side and has only made it stronger. Forrester listens professionally but dismisses the claims as ravings and returns to his rounds. John Doe’s behavior grows more erratic and soon the ward is plagued with a series of unexplained deaths. Forrester tries his best to keep a lid on things but finds he was never in control and his cavalier attitude to the rules may be responsible for more destruction when Doe leaves the hospital.

The Dead Center is a deliberately paced chiller that works its way under your skin with a creeping sense of dread that seldom lets up. Writer/director Billy Senese (Closer to God) tells a dark story of mental illness and the inevitability of death. Centered on an amnesiac who has lost his sense of identity, Senese fills his picture with interesting characters that are more developed than many that usually populate the genre. Elements of the supernatural play a key part of the story, but this is more of a character study. Dr. Daniel Forrester is a passionate man who cares deeply for his patients but flagrantly breaks the rules whenever he sees fit. This is unfair to the people he works with and strains his relationship with his longtime friend/boss Dr. Sarah Grey, whom he tries to manipulate on a regular basis. She sees through his games and is pushed into the position of being a hardass to protect the hospital, but remains concerned for her friend.

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Forrester is a deeply flawed protagonist. He is doing what he believes to be right, but he simply goes about it the wrong way. John Doe becomes something of an obsession to him and his determination to help the man leads to truly disastrous results. Doe warns him that he has killed people due to the evil inside him, but Forrester remains unfazed. His ego prevents him from asking for assistance even when he witnesses the supernatural first hand.

Actor Jeremy Childs (TV’s Nashville) does a fantastic job as John Doe, delivering a nuanced performance as a strange man with an intimidating physical presence, but also as someone deeply sympathetic and desperate for salvation. The majority of his scenes are opposite Shane Carruth (Primer), who stars as Dr.Forrester, and the two work well together. Carruth somehow manages to keep audiences on his side as he gets deeper into the mystery despite his questionable behavior. Grounding this story in the real world is hospital administrator Dr. Sarah Grey, wonderfully played by Poorna Jagannathan (Mile 22). In simple terms she could be viewed as an antagonist who impedes Forrester’s efforts, but in reality she is the most responsible character in the film. She is a very human authority figure looking out for those around her even if it gets in the way of a well-meaning doctor on a crusade.

The Dead Center is an atmospheric film rich with suspenseful moments that will keep viewers engaged. Director Senese delivers a fresh alternative to the current trends of the genre and successfully avoids many of the tropes we are all familiar with. Gone are the empty hospitals made popular in yesterday’s slasher films – spooky by way of under-lit corridors and a non-existent staff. Senese creates an active environment filled with interesting characters acting believably. The scares are generated as the system breaks down with the introduction of an untapped evil presence. Fear of the unknown and the loss of control are prominent themes that propel the story into interesting territory and build to an unexpectedly violent conclusion. If you like independent films that creep up on you and leave you feeling haunted, I can recommend this title.

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Video and Audio:

The Dead Center was filmed in 2018 and looks terrific. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, picture quality is exceptional and rich with detail.

A DTS-HD MA 5.1 delivers where it counts with sound effects spread evenly around the room. The film is dialogue-heavy but there are some disturbing audio cues sprinkled throughout.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

There are two audio commentaries, the first with writer/director Billy Senese, producer/actor Shane Carruth and co-star Jeremy Childs.

The second commentary features Senese, producers Denis Deck and Jonathan Rogers, and cinematographer Andy Duensing.

A Walk Through The Dead Center (38 minutes) is an in-depth making-of documentary featuring new interviews with Senese, Carruth, Duensing, Childs and many others revisiting the filming locations and discussing the production.

A collection of nine deleted scenes (7 minutes), including an alternate ending, offer additional story beats cut for pacing.

On-set interviews with actors Shane Carruth (3 minutes, funny), (4 minutes, serious) and Poorna Jagannathan (3 minutes) give time for reflections on character and story.

Head Casting with Jeremy Childs (2 minutes) takes a brief look at the creation of the make-up effects seen in the climax of the film.

Intruder (2011, 20 minutes), a short film directed by Billy Senese starring Jeremy Childs and Jennifer Spriggs, is included.

Also present is The Suicide Tapes (2010, 25 minutes), the original short film directed by Senese and starring Childs that later inspired The Dead Center.

Midnight Radio Theater, six radio plays from Senese’s audio program. Episodes include Insomnia (26 minutes), The Long Weekend (23 minutes), Disposable Life (31 minutes), The Suicide Tapes (26 minutes), The Woman In The Basement (33 minutes), Blood Oath (37 minutes) and Flu (40 minutes ). All were written, produced and directed by Billy Senese.

The original theatrical trailer and two teasers are included.

There are three photo galleries dedicated to production stills (376 images), behind-the-scenes shots (207 images) and poster art (4 images).

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Movie: Fourstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Buy Amazon Uk
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Threeandahalfstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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