Tuesday, January 22, 2019

In short: The Marsh (2006)

Claire Holloway (Gabrielle Anwar), a writer of creepy books for children, may be successful, but she’s also suffering from chronic exhaustion and depression. In the last months, recurring nightmares about a frightened little girl, a feral teenage ghost, and a somewhat creepy house have added to the pressure. So when she sees the house from her dreams on TV, she decides to take a Christmas holiday right in the home of her nightmares. Whatever could go wrong?

To nobody’s surprise, the house turns out to be haunted by the children from Claire’s dreams, whose appearances become increasingly more threatening, yet they also hint at a connection between them and Claire’s own, mysterious past. As the film goes on, the ghosts will kill quite a few people connected to that past. On the plus side, the town of Claire’s dubious vacation has its own paranormal investigator, one Geoffrey Hunt (Forest Whitaker), so she won’t have to go through this stuff alone.

Looking at Jordan Baker’s The Marsh on the good old IMDb, I was very surprised this isn’t a TV movie. It does look and feel a lot like one, and not a good one, I hasten to add, but rather the sort of thing made by people totally indifferent to the material they are working with. At the very least, Baker demonstrates a pretty distressing inability to effectively stage even the most basic of horror sequences; if a director can’t even make a simple nightmare sequence with creepy little kid ghosts work, he’s really not a good fit for horror.

Of course, Michael Stokes’s script, with its contrived and derivative murder scenes, its lack of emotional impact even when it talks about childhood trauma, its mechanical plotting, and its general lack of imagination, is the sort of material even a great horror director couldn’t do much with, so blaming Baker is perhaps a little unfair. The script doesn’t even manage to make proper use of the fact that it takes place around Christmas, the second-most ghostly season of the year.

Nobody else involved seems much inspired either: Anwar, while certainly beautiful and at least basically competent in whatever role she’s given isn’t the kind of actress who can conjure up an interesting character out of nothing; the rest of the cast, even the usually wonderful Forest Whitaker, phone things in completely.

There’s an air of disinterest hanging over the whole of The Marsh, as if nobody in front of or behind the camera could actually have been bothered to do more than show up and put as little effort into the film as possible. That, at least they managed.

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