Dead Souls DVD | Blu-ray
Director: Colin Theys
Screenwriter: John Doolan
Cast: Jesse James, Bill Moseley, Magda Apanowicz, Noah Fleiss, Jaiden Kaine Scream! Factory
Unrated | 92 Minutes
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Directed by Colin Theys (Remains) and written by John Doolan (Assault of the Sasquatch), Dead Souls is based upon the novel of the same name by Michael Laimo.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a baby is the sole survivor of a horrific family massacre. The infant is adopted by a crazy person who keeps the child’s history a deep, dark secret. On his 18th birthday, the kid gets a phone call out of nowhere letting him know that he’s inherited a large estate aka a ramshackle farmhouse and barn in the woods.
He ventures to Maine where he meets an attorney anxious to get the estate dealt with as soon as possible. The kid, against the advice of some off-kilter locals who tell him to turn back and go back where he came from, decides to stay at what is revealed to be site of said horrific family massacre.
The kid is Johnny Petrie, played by Jesse James. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, “Jesse James the notorious American outlaw?” Nope. “The guy from West Coast Choppers who cheated on Sandra Bullock with that Nazi lady?” False. This Jesse James is a 23-year-old actor known for roles in The Butterfly Effect, 2005’s The Amityville Horror remake, and Jumpers (yeah, that movie with Hayden Christensen).
As James’ character digs into his past, he discovers the grisly details of his family’s deaths, and the questionable teachings of his biological father, New England preacher Benjamin Conroy (J.H. Torrance Downes). Conroy thought he had it all figured out: The key to his family’s eternal salvation lay in an ancient Egyptian ritual to the god Osiris, because sure why not.
After dabbling in black magic – and the crucifiction of his entire family – the Conroys would rise from the dead, united for all of eternity, bringing salvation to the world. You know, that old chestnut. Upon Johnny’s arrival, decades-old evil spirits trapped in the home awaken and inhabit the bodies of the living, turning them into ghouls/zombies. All hell breaks loose shortly thereafter.
Dead Souls also stars Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1,000 Corpses), Magda Apanowicz (Kyle XY), Noah Fleiss (Brick), Geraldine Hughes (Rocky Balboa, Gran Torino), and Jaiden Kaine who, despite his name, is not a porn star – I know, I’m just as surprised as you are.
An original production from Chiller (NBC Universal’s horror-centric television channel), Dead Souls is now available on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory, a division of Shout Factory that specializes in releasing cult classic horror and science-fiction films and newer, independent titles. Dead Souls of course falls into the latter category: a low-budget, made-for-television horror movie that, well, feels like every other low-budget horror movie that goes direct-to-video these days.
Dead Souls isn’t a good movie. It’s hard to be too harsh on made-for-tv movies, but the story, well-worn and filled with cliches, is (like most indie horror flicks) made worse by thinly written characters, bad dialogue, and poor performances by young, inexperienced actors.
Legendary Bill Moseley, on the other hand, is a fantastic character actor and a horror icon, but it’s pretty clear that he will appear in literally ANY movie you’re willing to pay him base rate for. We’re talkin’ about the guy who played Otis Driftwood (“I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil’s work!”) and Chop-Top Sawyer (“Dog will hunt. Get that bitch, Leatherface! Get that bitch!”) but here he’s just a tired old drunk who shows up in a flannel coat to deliver exposition when necessary.
Had it been released 25 years ago, in the VHS days, you may have picked up Dead Souls off the rack and found it rather endearing – maybe even entertaining – but today the horror genre is already over-saturated with so many cheap, threadbare forget-me-nows like this one that it elicits nothing more than a shrug and a few eye-rolls. You’re better off revisiting some of those other forgotten films from the VHS days (now Scream Factory releases) like Deadly Blessing, The Funhouse, and Terror Train.