Directed by Jordan Barker
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Remember way back when ghost stories mainly consisted of spirits who could not rest because someone had murdered them? Of course you do. That simple plot line just doesn’t seem like enough for modern filmmakers. We live in a time when murder is just too tame by itself. There has to be some kind of sexual assault thrown into the mix as well, which usually comes to light as part of a twist ending of some sort. It’s always this one raped his daughter or that one molested her son, or there’s always that perfect stranger who touched some poor child that was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While these acts are monstrous, they almost come across as kind of trendy now in terms of today’s tales of restless and vengeful spirits. This plot device has become about as stale as using Nazis as villains in video games. Just add water or, in this case, a marsh.
Sony Pictures’ latest release, The Marsh, finds a famous children’s author (Anwar) coming to terms with the fact that she hasn’t created the things she has written about. Instead they are repressed childhood memories coming back to …ummm… haunt her. One day while exercising and watching TV she ends up seeing a house that she has explored through her work. Before you know it, she’s off to the small town and encounters not only the house but every single setting she’s ever written about. What’s an astounded and curious girl to do? Rent the house and live in it, of course!
After about a day it becomes painfully apparent that she is not alone in these four walls. Yep, she’s sharing space with some ghosts who have an agenda. Luckily for her, the first guy she meets in town is the local historian (Louis), and there just happens to be a paranormal investigator (Whitaker) living five minutes away. Doesn’t every small town have one of those? It’s all so cliche and convenient that it’s almost impossible not to lose interest by the half-hour mark.
To make matters worse, Anwar herself delivers a performance as wooden as the creaky old floor boards within the house, the script at times is laughably bad, and director Barker spends the majority of the film working out his scenes as if he were reciting them verbatim from the Horror Movie 101 textbook. We’re assaulted with needless slow motion, high and low camera angles by the dozens, and enough spooky mist for two more remakes of The Fog. Even if you’ve never seen The Marsh, believe me when I tell you you’ve seen it dozens of times and done a lot better than what we have here.
The stop button on the remote sure was looking pretty sweet. Then it happened. The spirits of the movie started doling out some revenge, and to be honest, the kill setups in The Marsh came off like the only bit of fresh air in a room full of chain-smokers. Let me state this carefully: The kills in this movie are not good and (despite the flick’s R rating) are for the most part bloodless. It’s only the events leading up to each kill that will pique your interest. In fact, these will be the only thing to keep you watching. However, if you make it through to the end, you’ll find that The Marsh actually had a rather engaging plot somewhere lost among the otherwise trite experience. While it has its share of shortcomings, it’s the poor execution that’s the real culprit here.
The DVD as a whole is an oddity in and of itself. Five minutes spent just tooling around the menus and switching between audio tracks and subtitles will leave you quite confused. You see some language tracks are identified as numerals instead of what they are. Since I am not fluent in 2:1528 or 5:1301 I found this to be pretty confounding. It’s almost as if the DVD was incomplete at the time it was supposed to be done but was sent out to press anyway.
Further evidence of this can be found in the sole bit of supplemental material, the twenty-six minute behind-the-scenes featurette. What we have here are several mini-featurettes (complete with long fade outs in-between segments) presented as a whole and seemingly out of order to boot. You’d really have to see this to get the gist of what I am saying, but should you not care enough, just take it from me; this is one of the most poorly authored DVD’s I have ever seen, and lord knows I have seen a lot!
The Marsh is just another slice of supernatural hackneyed pie. It’s not good, but you could certainly do worse. Just like a one-night stand it goes down easy and is instantly forgettable the next day.
2 1/2 out of 5
1 out of 5
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