Friday, May 14, 2010

13 GANTRY ROW (1998)

Talk about a mixed bag. This made-for-TV Australian spookshow romp is just like when you were a kid and it was Christmas and the most elaborate present under the tree was for YOU. Wrapping paper like Silver Surfer skin, bows elaborately tied like sailors' knots. And then you opened it and it was slacks from JC Penney and you ran from the room crying and then your aunt (the gifter) started crying. And, twenty-five years later, you tell the story on a horror blog.

That is the best way to explain GANTRY ROW, a beautiful box full of disappointment. The film hits such occasional highs that it's impossible not to resent its ultimate failure to aim higher. Director Catherine Millar knows her craft—this is a well-shot film with lots of interesting visuals and camera gimmickry. Sometimes, it's a little too much, as with the repeated scenes of things being placed onto transparent surfaces, shot from below (this happens at least thirty times), but overall GANTRY is quite fun to watch.

But when you hear "TV movie", you probably have a set of preconceptions that show up and, in this case, your prejudice is warranted. You judgmental twat. The plot here is cut like cookies. The script was delivered in a can with a white label that read GHOST STORY on it. Even when a potentially interesting subplot is dangled right there (like wife Julie saying, "I don't believe in religion," after wearing a golden cross throughout the entire film), GANTRY doesn't pursue it at all. Instead, the movie keeps steadfastly to well-traveled paths, from bleeding walls to skeletons in the cellar. It's so frustrating to have a visually rich and adequately-acted film that forgets that films must tell stories.

I don't want to rake this movie over the coals because it has some endearing elements. But the pithy description for it ("moderately pleasant") is not exactly the kind of rave you want your ghost story to draw. Longer description: the kind of horror movie that people who hate horror watch on Halloween because they think that's what they're supposed to do.

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