The Black Dahlia Haunting (2012/2013)




Possession movies can be tough, 95% of them are pretty much the same. Some pseudo-teenage actress becomes possessed via some sort of nefarious means. Said demon is expunged, usually by a priest or some other do-gooder. The stories are usually just variations on each other. The difference between these types of films is almost always the competency of the lead actress. Truthfully, It's very difficult for an actor to act possessed without looking like they are just having a seizure. For every great performance like Linda Blair in 'The Exorcist' or Jennifer Carpenter in 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose' there are millions of shitty actresses screaming about devils or demons smacking their heads against a wall. In turn, watching these performances usually causes me to smack my head against a wall.

So when 'The Black Dahlia Haunting' popped up in my inbox with a lovely introduction from star Devanny Pinn, I was rather luke warm to the idea of watching yet another boring "haunting movie" and a micro budget indie one at that. Sometimes though, when you put talented people together with limited resources, you force them to be creative - and cool shit happens. It's a hell of a lot more exciting when something like this happens than when Michael Bay decides to waste 200 million dollars blowing shit up for no fucking reason. Did I mention I loathe Michael Bay? I digress.

Some historical back story before we jump into the deep end of the film proper. Elizabeth Short, was a wanna be actress who hung around the outskirts of D-level Hollywood society back in the 40's. No one really gave a shit about her or gave her a second look, until she turned up dead. Not just dead though, butchered. Her body was cut in half at the torso. Her face was slashed from her mouth across to her ears. Various other indignities were laden upon her before her body was dumped on the side of an Los Angeles street to be found by some unlucky passer by. LA PD struggled for years to find legitimate suspects in her killing (it would take until the 80's for the department to figure out that blaming it on any passing minority would usually suffice). So like herpes, rumors started to spread. The murder took on a life of it's own making Elizabeth Short more famous in death than she could ever imagine in life.


When Holly finds out her Father has been murdered by her estranged blind brother of all people, she sets out for Los Angeles to get to the bottom of the killing. While there she reconnects with her brother, who seems less than enthused to make nice. Her brothers therapist on the other hand, seems to take more than just a passing interest in Holly. As her investigation progresses, Holly finds herself waist deep in the history of The Black Dahlia murder. Soon she starts seeing Elizabeth Short, when she dreams, Elizabeth is there. When she's awake Elizabeth is there. It doesn't take long before the line between Holly and Elizabeth ceases to exist. Losing control of her faculties to the ghost, Holly/Elizabeth seeks to take her vengeance out on anyone who stands in the way of her vengeance.

There is one thing to remember when viewing 'The Black Dahlia Haunting,' it is not a big budget film, hell, it's not even a small budget film. Lead actress Devanny Pinn describes the film as a "passion project" and that's exactly what it is. No Michael Bay chicanery to be found here (my hatred knows no bounds.) Nothing is blowing up, no crazy transforming robots, no Shia Lebouf ("not a hunk, not a nerd - Shia Lebouf"). No, what you have here is a group of folks who have a love for what they do, crafting interesting narratives backed with some solid acting performances.

Using the term "solid" here really does no justice to the job that lead Pinn does as Holly. I usually hate actresses when they do that whole "duel role" sort of thing. "Look I'm one person...now I'm another..." usually the performance of both personalities suffers. In this case though, Pinn actually gets better when she has to play both roles. It's her performance in the last half hour of the film that really elevates the film from average micro budget DVD fare to something you see, then tell your friends they need to see too.

It's not all wine and roses with 'The Black Dahlia Haunting' and it wouldn't be DreadWorld if we didn't at least pay some lip service to the films shortcomings. In short, it's an indie film. Even though it tries really hard (and succeeds many times) it still looks like an indie film. Early on there are parts that look like they may have been edited with an Etch-A-Sketch. There is a plot line with a knife that may or may not have something to do with the overall plot of the film. I'm still not quite sure. Then again, I am an idiot. Watch the film, then explain it to me in the comments below.

In the end though, 'The Black Dahlia Haunting' is exactly as it was described - a "passion project" and a damn good one at that. These are people that care about film making. Director Brandon Slagle and lead actress Devanny Pinn are going to be plying their trades for a long time, and hopefully continuing to scare the shit out of everyone as they do.

Check out 'The Black Dahlia Haunting' it's creepy as hell and damn fine film. Look for it to hit DVD later this fall and I believe it's now available on VOD on both Cox and Comcast cable systems (I have Time-Warner - Boooourns.)

***1/2 stars out of *****

As always, thanks for reading! + "Enjoy Every Sandwich."

3 comments:

  1. Interesting twist on the usual possession thing, too--making the possessing spirit that of a famous murder victim. Looking forward to seeing this. Thanks for the review!

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  2. Thank you for the review, sir.

    Some insight into the knife thing - and this may be more a thing that paranormal buffs may get - it's loosely hinted that some of the characters are "sensitives", essentially being able to muster some sort of willing or unwilling communication with the dead based on coming in contact with objects.

    I know it may feel almost like something that was left unresolved of course as it was mostly put in as something to wink at paranormal fans, but also as something that instills rewatch value - or at least I hope so.

    Thank you so much again!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the review and for explaining the whole knife thing. I certainly does make a little more sense now. Like I said in the review I'm not the brightest guy in the world when it comes to certain things, clearly paranormal folklore is one of them! Keep up the good work.

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