DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Gabrielle Anwar as CLAIRE HOLLOWAY
    Justin Louis as NOAH PITNEY
    Forest Whitaker as GEOFFRY HUNT

    Rated R
    Studio: Norstar Filmed Entertainment

    Directed by: Jordan Barker
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In general, I have a love-hate relationship with horror films that go directly to the home video or cable market. On one hand, these can be real gems with clever stories that never quite work on the big screen. On the other hand, they can also be pretty bad, which is often the reason they were never given a wide theatrical release.

Even when I come across one that isn’t all that great, it’s good to see a film that has given the good college try to be a serious horror film. It’s too easy to just do a gore-fest slasher or a campy horror spoof. So when I see even a so-so serious horror film make its way onto DVD, it’s worth a mention.

Jordan Barker’s “The Marsh” gives it the good old college try. It’s not a great horror film, but it does have some moderate successes throughout the show.

The plot follows children’s author Claire Holloway (Gabrielle Anwar), a woman who is finding suppressed memories rearing their ugly head in her dreams. She’s convinced that if she can find the answers to the creepy images in her mind, she’ll finally find peace. This leads her to the small town where she’s from, and she rents a haunted house near a marsh that has shown up many times in her nightmares.

While at the house, she encounters a series of paranormal events, most involving two ghosts – one of a tortured little girl and the other a malevolent teenage boy. Claire enlists the help of a local researcher named Hunt (Forest Whitaker) to aid her in unraveling this mystery.

“The Marsh” is not solidly tied together with all the elements of filmmaking, but there are some good aspects of the movie. With Forest Whitaker in the cast, you can expect some good acting, and you’d be correct. Whitaker brings a level of credibility with him in everything he does. Playing against him is Gabrielle Anwar, whose showing her age a bit but still delivers a strong performance.

If only the writing was better surrounding their characters. Even the secondary and tertiary actors do well in the piece, but they’re acting around some pretty weak dialogue and murky plot points. The story follows a rocky path with lots of weird events but very few reality checks. For example, we see several deaths at the hands of paranormal entities, but there’s never any concern in the town for these unexplained deaths.

Even in the end, when the final twists are revealed, it seemed to show that the town never investigated missing persons or were worried when men, women and children just never came home.

The plot itself was a little thin for a feature-length film, making me feel that “The Marsh” would have been more appropriate as a 30-minute episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Unfortunately, there’s no market in the world for good short films, so it was necessary to stretch everything to a 92-minute running time.

However, if you can get around the shaky story, the acting carries the film pretty far. There’s also plenty of spooky scenes that, taken on their own, work pretty well. As far as direct-to-DVD horror films go, “The Marsh” is a good effort.

The DVD comes with a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette, which plays better and more informative than most I’ve seen. Rather than being a self-congratulatory love fest, this featurette offers some decent insight into the film and the roles of everyone involved.

Specifications: Dolby Digital Sound. English and Thai language tracks. Japanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese and Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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