Curse of the Black Dahlia (2006)

Curse of the Black Dahila review (click to see it bigger!)Starring Kate Siegel, Laura Penn, Michelle Dominique, Daren A. Herbet, Lenora Chu, Daniel Spangler, Austin Brooks

Written & Directed by Dan Goldman

The Black Dahlia – one of the most famous unsolved murders in history. A young aspiring actress gruesomely murdered in 1947; her body mutilated, severed into two halves, and dumped in a vacant lot in Los Angeles – a crime that remains unsolved to this day. Already the subject of a big screen flop last year from director Brian DePalma and a direct-to-DVD atrocity from Ulli Lommel, now comes another made-for-DVD stinker called Curse of the Black Dahlia. You know what’s the real curse of the Black Dahlia is? She keeps turning up as the subject of lousy movies.

Curse of the Black Dahlia opens with a random murder occurring in the parking garage of this office building where about 98% of the film takes place. I think the filmmaker only included this scene since he knew not a damn thing happens for the next 45-minutes outside of some hyper-edited, dream-like hallucinations.

We then meet doe-eyed marketing exec Jennifer (Kate Siegel, a very pretty woman and an okay actress, but with a bad habit of wildly overacting with her eyes), currently a beaten up mess in a hospital bed. A cop has come to question her about the horrific events of the night before. The nurse at first insists that she’s in no condition to answer questions, but they go ahead and do so anyway. I don’t see why not considering Jennifer is remarkably spry and talkative for someone we’ll eventually come to learn just took two bullets to the abdomen. Jennifer then begins narrating the movie in flashback, always sounding like she’s reading the words right off the page. Later on, a conversation she’ll have during this flashback with a co-worker will lead to that co-worker telling her a story in flashback, so, technically speaking, the flashback includes a flashback-within-a-flashback, and that second flashback isn’t even her own. Wrap your heads around that one.

Jennifer tells us that she was already prone to nightmares, daymares and random blackouts to begin with, then she gets to work and is immediately filled with a sense of dread for reasons she doesn’t understand. She’ll soon get called into her boss’ office as he’s in mid-argument with a co-worker named Karl, played by the only actor in the cast who doesn’t fit the mold of being relatively young and easy on the eyes. If nothing else, this is a very photogenic cast.

Karl immediately starts rambling incoherently about how everyone deserves to know about the building and the Black Dahlia. Before he can explain anything, Jennifer’s boss asks her a question about a big project in the works and when Jennifer gives an answer that reflects badly on him, Karl goes mental and storms out of the office ranting and raving about how much he hates, well, everything.

That tirade and storming out was interpreted as Karl quitting (He never actually expressly said he quit during his outburst), so Jennifer gets a promotion to Karl’s position. Unfortunately, Karl was way behind on a project due ASAP. This means Jennifer has to round up a small group of co-workers to stay after hours to pull an all-nighter. None of the co-workers are happy about this; not just because they have to stay late, but because no one likes staying in this office building once the sun goes down. Why is that? Probably has something to do with the building supposedly being haunting. I’m sure you can guess by who given the film’s title, but wait until you see how they barely connect that who to this building and this film’s plot. That explanation is thinner than Nicole Richie.

And how does the Black Dahlia manifest herself? Well, she really doesn’t much for the first 45-minutes. You get the occasional odd noise, characters acting like they’ve got a bad feeling about something, some strange distortions on a DVD, and (GASP!) a marketing poster that mysteriously prints out with the words “BLACK DAHLIA” on it. Most of the time is filled with characters complaining about their work, discussing their work, and then working on that work, with only a few fleeting scenes of story/character development along the way. It became apparently how desperate this freaking movie was to stretch things out when it managed to cram in a second music montage of characters in the workplace doing their jobs. Good grief! Finally, at the halfway point of the movie, the killings begin – the majority of which occur off-camera. Double good grief!

And despite there not really seeming to be much of anything preventing these people from escaping this building, escaping this building seems to be a near impossibility. Here’s an idea – stop trying to get the phone lines to work and run down the damn stairs already, but not as fast as that idiot that does just that and stumbles to his death. Triple good grief!

When it’s not boring you with a whole lot of nothing going on, Curse of the Black Dahlia is one incredibly clumsy attempt at horror. I use the word “clumsy” because there’s really no other word that I can think of to best describe how badly the horror elements of this film misfire. It’s often handled so awkwardly that I can’t help but think the filmmaker made a mistake by not billing the film as a flat-out spoof. Between that, the insipidly staged off-screen kills, the booming musical score even when there isn’t anything remotely suspenseful happening on-screen, no shortage of dumb dialogue coming out of the mouths of hammy actors, and the lead actress with her hyperactive eyes, I began wondering why the filmmaker didn’t just set out to make an outright horror comedy out of this silly mess. There’s an electrocution in this film that occurs in a manner bordering on parody and another character commits suicide for no logical reason other than a strained attempt by the filmmaker to try and add some shock value. I mean this character up and blows their brains out for no discernable reason whatsoever.

A good portion of the last ten minutes is devoted to a DVD Jennifer finds in Karl’s office of him interviewing a ghost expert about the building’s supernatural presence. That ghost hunter proceeds to conveniently explain everything, not that any of it made a lick of difference by this point. When the film faded to black and the closing credits began to roll, I just started giggling in disbelief that it actually ended in such an anti-climactic a manner as it did. The film quite literally ends without a resolution, leaving you feeling as if there’s a whole final scene that’s completely missing. Add one more “Good Grief!” here and this film now officially achieves a grand slam of good grief.

I’ll say it again; this movie should have been made as a straight-up parody. But it’s not, and because of that it’s a straight-up failure. Some sporadic moments of unintended comedy are hardly enough to make up for the complete waste of time that Curse of the Black Dahlia is. Let the woman rest in peace already.

1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit