April 1, 2015 Dead Sea (Movie Review)
Long ago an earthquake shook the Earth so violently that it opened the gates of hell for just long enough to allow a huge serpent creature to escape and take refuge in a town off Southeastern California. It remains there today and is the focus of latest creature feature from Dead Sea Films and Micro Bay Features (House of Manson, 2014; The Zodiac Legacy, 2015), Dead Sea (also known as Black Lagoon). Released on April 15, 2014 in the United States and filmed around a number of locations including Boulder Bay and Big Bear Lake, the events of Dead Sea begin in Southern California in 1983. Written, directed by, and starring Brandon Shagle (Gone Dark, 2013; House of Manson, 2014) as Kier Than, the film also features Alexis Iacono (The Penny Dreadful Picture Show, 2013; The Black Dahlia Haunting, 2012) as marine biologist Victoria Amissus.
During a stormy night in 1983, Kier and his mother watch, terrified, as Kier’s father surrenders to the might of the sea. Fast forward to 2002, and Kier has transformed from an innocent young boy into a sadistic and violent soldier serving a tour in the Middle East. After tormenting a couple of prisoners of war, one of whom, Said (James Duval: Gone in Sixty Seconds 2000, Donnie Darko, 2001), informs Kier that a storm is brewing and the shadow of death follows him. Kier, who is disturbed by this statement, is soon joined by his friend Castor Pollux (Britt Griffith: House of Manson, 2014; A Grim Becoming, 2014).
Kier cannot forget what happened when he was a boy. Flashes of that night go through his mind, and the viewer soon discovers that it was not just the sea that took his father; there was something much more insidious at work. Thirty years later, almost to the day after the events of 1983, Kier and Castor return to their hometown as twisted men hellbent on saving their old community. Meanwhile, Victoria, another former denizen of this town, is sent to return there to discover why all of the marine life is dying. Already burdened with a drinking problem and relationship issues, she is reluctant to return as her father threw her out when she was younger, but she gives in.
A reclusive man named Callan (Jw Wiseman: Deadliest Warrior, 2011; The Hunted, 2015) wakes in his meager surroundings and discontentedly looks towards the sea as tourist season approaches. A group of townspeople, including Kier and Castor, gather together to discuss the upcoming feeding time. During their meeting, a group of young people, including a young woman named Auriel (Devanny Pinn: The Black Dahlia Haunting, 2012; Truth or Dare, 2013), arrive by boat to enjoy the currently calm waters. Not long after their arrival, the creature makes itself known and the centuries old ritual begins.
It appears the town’s history changed dramatically sixty years ago when it went from a bustling tourist destination to what is practically a ghost town, and this is the fault of the creature, which, fearsome to begin with, creates conflict between the human residents of the town as well. Callan fights Kier and Castor at every turn as they plan to remedy the situation in a most unsavory manner, but Kier has made up his mind and will stop at nothing to get his way. Kier and Victoria’s stories intersect at a bar one evening when Kier recognizes Victoria, pushing Victoria to face her past and her father. Scene by scene, tension builds as the time to face the creature and its demands draws near. Kier and his crew seal up the town, and Victoria finds she is running out of time to save herself — and her estranged father. The creature will not be denied. Will the town be returned to its former glory, or will it remain a desolate place housed by ghosts of the past?
Dead Sea features a long-forgotten creature which makes for interesting subject matter. Minimalist special effects by Phil Nichols (Bigfoot Wars, 2014; Clinger, 2015), who also did the creature design and effects, are handled well, but the viewer does not actually get to see the serpent except in flashes while it is in the flurry of attack. Cinematography by Bill McClelland (Intrusion, 2015; Android Cop, 2014) and the soundtrack by E. Rex (The Black Dahlia Haunting, 2012; House of Manson, 2014) and John Roome (28 Weeks Later, 2007; Live Free or Die Hard, 2007) work together to maintain an abandoned, empty atmosphere for the entire movie, which adds greatly to its overall mood. While the acting is a little shaky, and there are some slow moments, Dead Sea is a welcome addition to the Horror genre. Shagle certainly shows his expert multitasking skills and is certainly one to keep an eye out for. CrypticRock gives Dead Sea 3 out of 5 stars.