Near Death (2003) Movie Review

Sometimes there’s just no reason to make a movie. Consider Joe Castro’s “Near Death”, which despite the slick movie poster, is mostly a pointless endeavor. It’s nothing more than “filmmaking” based on the assumption that supercilious gore and hints of sex (but no actual sex) can cover up amateurish acting, vacuous writing, lack of resources, and someone’s town home decorated poorly (including but not limited to a chandelier that is hanging dangerously low) to look like some sort of mansion. To top it off, the whole thing is shot on video, or digital video, or something reasonably of low quality.

The film concerns three paranormal “investigators” who journeys to a deceased B-movie director’s house to do some ghost hunting. The trio consists of psychic June (Perrine Moore) and bickering lovers Billy (Scott Lunsford) and Tammy (Ali Willingham). They arrive at the home of the late Willie Von Braham (how’s that for a movie name!), which is supposed to be haunted — and as we discover, is currently inhabited by flesh-eating ghouls with really, really bad teeth and a strange propensity for acting like an over-the-top Vincent Price, but without the actual talent. And did I mention they have really, really bad teeth? Or at least black ink smeared on their teeth to make it look “ghoulish”?

As it turns out, Billy has invented a super duper “computer program” that, he claims, will prove that ghosts and spirits don’t really exist. (You see, he’s the skeptic of the bunch — sort of the Scully of the group, but without the intelligence.) Meanwhile, June keeps getting strange visions, although since actress Perrine Moore really has no talent to speak of, she could be having a migraine instead of actually “acting”. Then a lot of stuff happens and the audience is treated to more fake gore and some groovy computer special effects and fun is had by all. Unless, of course, you were expecting a good movie, in which case you came to the wrong party.

The most disheartening thing about “Near Death” is that it has some pretty impressive computer effects, especially for a movie of its very limited budget. Castro and company renders some very nice death scenes with the help of some creative sfx software. They’re certainly better effects than you’d expect in a movie of this caliber. Unfortunately the filmmakers must have spent so much time with the effects that they forgot the one crucial thing about making a movie: It all starts with a good script. There isn’t a good script here. In fact, there isn’t much of a script here at all.

The story is so derivative you wonder why they even bothered. “Flesh for the Beast” had almost the same exact storyline, and that low-budget movie was equally disastrous. But the one thing “Beast” had going for it is that it knew what it was, and as a result it didn’t skimp on the gore and T&A. “Near Death” gives the audience a helping of gore, but aside from T&A courtesy of a cheap murder victim early on, the rest of the movie is one big bore. Who knew no-name actors with no talent, and with absolutely no hope of ever making it “mainstream”, were so concern with showing gratuitous nudity? For that matter, who knew filmmakers making cheap exploitation movies were so concern with getting actors who can’t act and yet refused to do nudity? Go figure.

At just 80 minutes, I suppose “Near Death” isn’t bad enough to completely trashed by this reviewer. Make no mistake, though, it certainly is trash. There’s not a lot of value to be had here, unless one enjoys watching some groovy computer effects on a budget. But the truth is no one watches low-budget horror movies for the effects. For a genre with such low built-in expectations, the only marker of success is getting the attractive leads to go naked at least once. Instead, we get a lousy shower scene that shows absolutely nothing.

I swear, what is the exploitation B-movie industry coming to when you can’t even get no-name actresses to do nudity in a shower scene?

Joe Castro (director) / Daniel Benton (screenplay)
CAST: Perrine Moore …. June Rivera/Maria
Scott Lunsford …. Billy Strand
Ali Willingham …. Tammy Garrett
Brannon Gould …. Harlan
Carl Darchuck …. Willie Von Brahm

Buy Near Death on DVD