Director Joe Geddes teams up with Pontypool writer and lead actor Stephen McHattie for visually stunning spooky adventure about a terminally ill grave digger who travels to hell to rescue the beautiful woman he falls in love with.
This highly-stylized CGI endeavor pays homage to 1950’s horror and sci-fi cinema, but lacks the campy fun of any such movies. Truth is this is more of an offbeat fantasy drama than horror and it takes itself quite seriously, which would have been fine if the story had made any sense. Despite the eye-popping visuals, the movie slogs along without actually going anywhere, which is a real shame for Stephen McHattie, who does a fine job playing Charlie Baker, a graveyard caretaker suffering from episodic pran disease (brain clunk). In addition to his head pounding pain, Charlie endures daily harassment from local children and starts to notice some bizarre vandalism happening in the cemetery. Problem is Charlie can’t be sure if this isn’t all an illusion. Charlie is tired of looking after the dead and wants to move to Florida, but after a visit from his employer, Charlie learns he’ll have to delay retirement for reasons not entirely clear and inherits a box with a mysterious map, which he can’t stand more than 10 feet away from. While on an afternoon drive, he meets an alluring woman named Fay, who is running away from an unseen force. The two quickly fall in love and Hell doesn’t seem to like it very much. Fay disappears just as quickly as she showed up.
The movie then introduces a subplot involving a squirrelly policeman on the hunt for two dangerous escaped criminals from the local insane asylum. The copper tells Charlie several small and strange tales of the cemetery’s more notorious residents. These small stories are perhaps the most interesting part of the whole movie. Unfortunately, the escaped criminals storyline goes nowhere fast, and soon after, Charlier Baker uses the mystery map to find his way into Hell, where he battle the forces of evil to win back his beloved Fay.
Unfortunately, the Sin City-style visuals and amazing set design are not enough to carry this one. I didn’t really have any problem with any of the other actors, particularly Julian Richings, who I felt was criminally underused here, but the characters needed more fleshing out and more clarity to their relevance to the main story. The end is one big beautiful muddled mess.
Horror fans won’t find any scares here, but for those who want weirdness and to witness some really cool visuals, this one’s for you.