The international horror market is becoming quite the money maker. It started with the Asian Invasion. We started seeing American remakes of these mostly Japanese or Korean ghost stories. They usually had a common thread that featured some type of technology. It started with Ring, the American version of Ringu. Here it’s a videotape that demands to be reproduced or you’re dead in 7 days. Eventually we’ve seen films where ghosts inhabit everything from computers to video games to cell phones and digital cameras. It seems the dead just can’t let go of their hi-tech toys. If you want to go ghost hunting today, stay away from the creepy mansions and ancient cemeteries. I’d try Best Buy. Those guys must have a hell of a ghost problem. Who you gonna call?
The latest country to get in on the fad is Austria. Dead In 3 Days is an Austrian, German language film, which hasn’t been remade for American audiences. Instead the film, originally titled, In 3 Tagen bist du tot, provides an English dub.
Five close friends are celebrating their high school graduation. Things aren’t going right for them from the start. They hit a deer on their way home from graduation. Laws must be tough in Austria; they’re afraid to report the accident because the driver will lose his driver’s license. They beat the thing over the head to finish it off. Once home they each get a text message on their cell phones warning that they will be dead in 3 days. They scoff the warning off as a joke and go about the more serious business of partying. I’ll bet you know where this is all going. You’re correct. The teens begin to fall prey to a mysterious killer. Of course we all know that a tragic childhood event that they’ve managed to keep secret and suppress is coming back to haunt them. From here it’s very typical horror stuff.
The film has a bit of potential that never gets fulfilled. The problem is that we’ve seen everything here many times before. There isn’t one clever or original moment in this film to save it from the forgettable pile of independent and foreign horror films destined to fill the bargain bins at Wal-Mart. The pace is also horribly slow. There are many blocks of several minutes where the camera simply pans over a scene, offering us no further passage into the story. There’s a lot of sitting around, but even that much stretches the ability of most of this cast. The lead Sabrina Reiter, playing Nina, has the best acting chops in the bunch, but even she doesn’t have enough to carry the film forward. Don’t get me wrong. Great acting has never been a requirement for a good horror film, but if we’re going to spend so many character moments lingering on these people, we need some life. The truth is, some of this acting is so bad there’s really no difference between when they’re alive or dead. The kills are unimaginative, and only a couple are very bloody. I also hate it when a character in a horror film says, “This isn’t a movie, it’s real”. Perhaps it’s a little thing, but it totally takes me out of the picture. I’m glad to see more sources for horror arriving on the scene, and I hope that the Austrian filmmakers are not deterred if this one does very little business here in the United States. The film does show off some nice atmospheric locations in Austria. I may not have liked this one, but I’ll be sure to try the next.
Dead In 3 Days is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There’s a lot of grain in this picture, and it works against the mostly dark nighttime shoot. The low lighting often robs the film of much color. There is such low contrast that you’ll find it often difficult to make anything out. When there is light, there is often too much blue, which casts an unnatural pale on everything, particularly flesh tones. Black levels are also below par.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does everything it needs to. I opted for the English, but there is also a nice German 5.1. It isn’t all that aggressive, but once again attention is paid to realistic detail. Sounds appear to come from the directions they should be coming from. Dialog is clear. The music is mostly source with a few “score scare” moments. It all sounds pretty good. Definitely a better audio presentation than the image.
The movie only succeeds in the atmosphere of its locations. Unfortunately even that success is dampened by the high grain, low contrast image. I can live with all of the flaws from the image to the actors, yes, and even the unoriginality. What puts me off this film is the pace. It was a hard one to keep awake and watch. The film left me wanting to ask these guys, “Why, why did you do this?”