|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 30 May 2000|
Young, broke married couple Barry (Aaron Hendry) and Susan (Michelle Beauchamp, a lookalike for Madeleine Stowe) inherit the suburban home of Barry’s late brother (Stuart Chapin, who also wrote and directed) after the latter’s suicide. Barry and Susan are so ecstatic about having a place to live that it takes them awhile to notice the house’s eccentricities. The sink is perpetually clogged by the ectoplasmic talking head of a murder victim (Vanessa Chapin) that’s always visible to the audience, though not to the characters. Locks, jiggled the wrong way, open doors into other dimensions. Glowing blue figures whisper exhortations to murder, when not doing the deed themselves. In fact, the house is infested with kobolds, which are described here as a combination of "human, demon and dust bunny."
Kobolds actually exist in European legend, although they aren’t the spectral beings of "Deadlock." Director/writer Chapin appears to be having fun with the movie’s high gore quotient, starting in Chapter 1, and if he doesn’t seem to be quite as personally invested in the nudity, that other exploitation staple, he comes up with plenty of excuses to include it whenever possible (starting with a real estate transaction in Chapter 2 – the women are consistently attractive, whether normal-hued or bright blue). The rules of the "Deadlock" universe aren’t all that clear – sometimes the kobolds are able to act on their own, sometimes they need to possess humans and sometimes they are easy to thwart – and there are moments of quasi-seriousness that don’t really mesh with the general tone of nonchalant humor. However, there is something sweetly retro about "Deadlock" that will remind fans of goofy fare like John Landis’ "Schlock!" and Larry Hagman’s "Son of Blob," or even Frank Henenlotter’s "Basket Case" – it’s messy but sort of endearing.
The photography is consistently bright and sharp, with vivid colors – when shots are shadowy, it’s because we see the characters moving from sunlight into shade. The visual effects usually compare favorably with those on syndicated TV shows. In the making-of featurette, Chapin discusses a post-production catastrophe, in which 300 feet of film (about seven minutes’ worth) was perforated down the middle and had to be digitally restored. It’s quite an achievement that the problem is so thoroughly concealed in the final product. The severed head in the sink, a dimensional mid-air ripple in Chapter 11, lawn sprinklers that spurt first blood, then a ghost in Chapter 12, and the bright glowing blue of the kobolds all look very good.
A few other visual high points are the several sword fights between Hendry and Kyle Jordan, who look like they know what they’re doing. An added kick for blade-philes will be the presence of sword masters Anthony de Longis (as a slimy producer) and Roberta Brown (as an ambitious underling) in the cast, although neither one engages in swordplay here.
The sound, unfortunately for audiophiles, is only adequate. Although it is always audible, with relatively few level dips, the sound quality is where the low budget of "Deadlock" is most apparent. This is the first DVD heard by this reviewer with sound that is literally two-channel – the left and right mains are active, but there is no center channel, let alone rears. On the reference system and speaker placement used for this review, the fill in the soundfield is decent, so that the absence of the center seldom called attention to itself.
The music has some funny, faux-Brit Beat songs by Andy Colquhoun and Scott L. Moss (imagine Herman’s Hermits crooning about their kobold troubles). A music video segment in Chapter 16, with a Supremes-style act by the living dead, comes across mirthfully in performance and creditably on the soundtrack.
"Deadlock" is an agreeable oddity. It will be best appreciated by those who cherish the days when low-budget horror was completely unformulaic and unpredictable, and by those who want to see what can be accomplished with more determination and technical know-how than cash.