Starring Adrian Paul, Frida Show, Rhett Giles, and Michael Teh
Directed by Matt Codd
The lost colony of Roanoke, Virginia has been the source of so much mystery and speculation that I’m actually surprised it hasn’t been the subject of more films. Sometime during the three years following its founding by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 16th century, the colonists of Roanoke, Virginia went missing and were never heard from again. When supply ships finally returned to the colony in 1591 there wasn’t a soul to be found and any clues to what had happened were virtually nonexistent. Theories have bound ever since that the colonists got massacred or abducted by local natives or that they may have even been swept out to sea in a storm. The tale of this lost colony certainly made prime fodder for Leonard Nimoy’s “In Search Of” and it should come as no surprise that the Sci-Fi Channel would eventually come a calling and make a movie putting an otherworldly spin on the tale.
Wraiths of Roanoke (originally titled The Lost Colony) purports to tell the true story of Roanoke but with a supernatural twist; the colonists fall victim to wrathful wraiths that haunt the tiny island on which Roanoke was settled. What we have here is a low rent period hybrid of Evil Dead, The Fog, and The Village.
Highlander 2.0 Adrian Paul is Ananias Dare, who along with his pregnant wife Eleanor, are amongst the first settlers of the new world. Ananias and his best friend George (Asylum graduate Rhett Giles) are amongst the few to discover that the person who had been left behind previously to stand guard over the fort until the colonists arrived had hung himself in a locked building with a primitive moat of sorts built around it. He left behind an ominous warning: “Save your soul before they take it from you.” Believing the man had just gone mad and not wanting to alarm the rest of the newcomers, they decide to not share this with the rest.
No sooner do they arrive Eleanor has a bad dream about ghosts taking her unborn baby. So traumatic is this dream that she goes into labor and gives birth to a baby girl. She begs Ananias to go back to England because she senses that there’s something seriously bad about the island. He refuses because he’d made a promise to help maintain the island in case England goes to war with Spain. The local Crow Indians also warn of evil spirits roaming the forest and that the white man will suffer if they don’t leave.
It was about the fourth such conversation within the first 45-minutes alone along the lines of either Eleanor or Manteo, the local Crow Indian liaison, giving Adrian Paul a “My Spider Sense is tingling about this place” speech that I began to tune out.
While it’s nice to see the Sci-Fi Channel premiere an original movie that wasn’t designed to be moronic, I’m disappointed to report how dull Wraiths of Roanoke is. It’s apparent the production was hindered to a certain extent by the lack of budget, but the script is the biggest hindrance. Perfunctory dialogue all around and the only characterization could best be described as varying degrees of sullenness. Being so dreary would be fine given how we know going in from a historical perspective that everyone involved is doomed, but the necessary looming atmosphere of dread is nowhere to be found. The story seems to be stuck in a holding pattern for the first hour with repeated speeches about how something bad is forthcoming interrupted infrequently by a random character wandering the forest and falling victim to the wraiths.
The wraiths – tortured spirits stuck between this world and the next that feed off the living – are visualized as glowing green specters that look like skeletal Viking or grim reaper types that you’d expect to see on the cover of a 1980’s heavy metal album cover. They’re non-corporeal, can “poof” into thin air at will, mentally manipulate people, control the very elements of the forest, and their very touch can drain the life out of person, yet these ghostly warriors still prefer staging full scale raids, swinging wildly at victims with their spectral weaponry. Their greatest weakness being water since water is life and they are death. They cannot cross water; hence the building of a moat around the fort. They’re out to get baby Virginia unless Ananias can find a way to exorcise these evil spirits.
If you can slog through the tedium of the first half Wraiths of Roanoke finally begins developing a sense of forward momentum. I can’t imagine anyone being scared by an of it and despite a few surprisingly grisly deaths early on, I also can’t envision the more gore-obsessed horror fans having the patience to sit through the bland exposition and lack of action just to get to see those bloody kills.
Ultimately, Wraiths of Roanoke is a lifeless yet inoffensive supernatural thriller with a historical bent to it. Well made yet still resoundingly uneventful; it’s got its head in the right place, it just doesn’t deliver much for your investment and tried my patience with all the waiting for the storyline to develop any traction. I can’t help but be left with the sense of a missed opportunity that no doubt another enterprising filmmaker will capitalize on one day.
2 out of 5