Although ALMOST DEAD is a sort of papier mache knock-off of a sophisticated thriller, it generates cheesy fun in its junior Grand Guignol way. Filled with collapsed gravesites, apparitions, and premature burials, this chiller is also intriguing in that the walking dead disport themselves
with more animation than the film's nominal stars, Shannon Doherty and Costas Mandylor.
After being killed in an apartment explosion, supposed suicide Mrs. Roshak (Penelope Branning) seems reluctant to relinquish earthly bonds to guilt-ridden daughter Katherine (Doherty). Mama's posthumous visits compel Katherine to postpone her psychiatric research (involving twins) to visit the
family cemetery in her hometown. She finds an ally in Officer Dominic Delaserra (Mandylor), bereaved by his own wife's demise. Despite police department resistance to opening Mrs. Roshak's grave, a mysteriously trashed car and torched bathroom indicates that Katherine's mother is not resting in
peace, and the heroine turns to Dominic, who deposits her with his pal Eddie (John Diehl), a hunchback who freaks out Katherine with homicide fantasies. Could the motherly haunting have something to do with Katherine's inheritance from a long-lost father? When Dominic is jailed, accused of
shooting Eddie, vulnerable Katherine receives aid and comfort from Father Ambrose (Eric Christmas). Ultimately, Katherine overhears that two of her twin patients, the Effenbeck siblings (David and Jimmy Schuelke) concocted the elaborate hoax about her mother to bilk Katherine out of her estate.
After she fatally stabs one Effenbeck, the other twin suffers the wound in transference (like Dumas' famous Corsican Brothers) and both perish. What can't be rationally explained is how Katherine was advised by Father Ambrose, who was already dead!
ALMOST DEAD is one of those funhouse flicks in which necking couples can pretend to be scared for an excuse for propinquity. Still, this script is ingenious enough to cloud the double-trouble key to its mystery and ignites enough false climaxes (like Dominic's ordeal interred alive in a tomb) to
distract one from the real scam. What gives this minor shocker a kick is how the shrink's subjects exploit their doctor's psyche for their own perverted purposes. Although photography is only serviceable, this low-budget affair benefits from a music score that nicely coaxes jolts, and crafty
camera maneuvers (particularly during the twins' crypt-ic assaults) with a genuine flair for the macabre; there's also a superb trick shot that travels through a keyhole. Directorial assurance papers over the plethora of plot holes. Given the irritations wrought by these holidays from logic,
ALMOST DEAD does a fairly savvy job of misleading its audience down blind alleys. (Violence, profanity, adult situations.)
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