First, Frank came from the future to tell Donnie Darko that he'd be dead in around a month. Then, The Ring took that immediacy a step further by killing off anyone who watched a videotape within seven days. Unexplainable messages through time and space are growing exponentially more lethal, obviously, because now we've got Dead in 3 Days (In 3 Tagen bist du tot), Austria's nerve-rattling riff on the slasher flick from director Andreas Prochaska. But don't get too antsy over expecting something akin to Japan's Pulse (Kairo), because it's simpler, bloodier, and a good bit duller than that. Let's just hope they don't escalate the immediacy even higher to try and heighten the intrigue for its sequel, because I'm not sure if we could handle "Dead in an Hour" by way of Twitter updates.
After watching a bruised-up girl stumble down the road in a flustered stupor, assumed to be the aftermath of what's to come, Dead In 3 Days then hops backwards to introduces us to a ragtag collection of freshly graduated high-schoolers. It's a standard assortment of stereotypes -- the semi-burly dude with a cute sex kitten girlfriend, a darker pairing of borderline-gothic kids, and a somewhat detached and rebellious vixen -- all of which seem to have known each other from a young age. Then, the day after their graduation, each of them receives a disturbing text message on their cell phone that simply states "You Will Die in 3 Days". Dismissing it as a potential prank or something else harmless, they go about their lives -- until one of them disappears.
At the start of Dead In 3 Days, it's obvious that director Prochaska knows exactly how to build a nail-biter of a horror film. His style largely mirrors a steadier version of the aesthetic that Jaume Balagueró ([Rec]) uses in his entry into the "Peliculas Para No Dormir" (6 Films to Keep You Awake) series, tapping into the same cold, slate-colored grittiness as he follows the kids around their sleepy little town. Through fluid camerawork and a compelling swatch of colors, it provides a rich visual design within a subdued little town that oversteps its meager horror needs. Prochaska also pulls near-genuine performances from the story's townies, giving each of the focal teenagers a nudge in dramatic presence that takes them slightly above standard genre offerings.
Once we start to dive into the darker side of the mystery and the killer rears its mysterious head, Prochaska also showcases a strong eye for capturing visceral terror. He drops visual elements all throughout the picture -- knives, glass, an aquarium to name a few -- and makes ample use of them in foreseeable yet disquieting ways. The second half of Dead In 3 Days, a reverse edge for these elements, aims squarely for gore hounds who relish in formula, instead expressing a desire to be skin curdling instead of compellingly enigmatic. There's plenty of bloodshed to grasp as the mystery unfolds, one filled with enough red herrings and spook-outs to keep the climax shrouded. Ah, and the aquarium sequence is sure to get a few chills out of well-seasoned horror aficionados.
Yet, all the carnage in the world can't mask over Dead In 3 Days' glaring problem: its tiresome script. It's not that it's bad or overly rigid, it's just overwhelmingly dull when focusing on dialogue -- and utterly out of left field with its big twist. Suspenseful reveals, no matter if they're predictable or clever, usually leave me satisfied to at least some degree if they share a thread or two of connective tissue with the story. This one, however, leaves nothing but an empty, uninspired taste in my mouth, feeling like an unadventurous hodgepodge of mannerisms from better '70s and '80s slasher flicks and the tedious nonsense of the overdone '90s "checklist" mechanic.
I'll opt out of mentioning which flicks it mirrors to preserve the conclusion, but let's just say that sticking to genre blueprints doesn't wear as well on its conclusion as it does with the setup. Though it wasn't postured to be a classic, Prochaska certainly rustles up enough gusto to make it seem appealing from the get-go -- offering us a chance to get wrapped up in its admittedly paint-by-numbers, single-minded design. If Dead In 3 Days slick visuals and subdued-yet-chilling atmosphere were the only guiding factors behind it success, then we'd have a winning little stunner of a horror flick on our hands. Instead, it's nothing more than an attractively-shot slash-'em-up with an anemic narrative flow, one that showcases the Austrian director's camera-and-slate talents instead of writing prowess.
Dead In 3 Days comes to us from Genius Products/Dimension in a standard keepcase presentation under their "Extreme" label of primarily horror-based films. It's a bare-bones release, void of even a supplemental trailer.
Video and Audio:
Preserving the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio of Dead In 3 Days' theatrical distribution, Genius Products' transfer offers a strong representation of the film's dark, cold visual design. Heavy digital noise does crop up in several darker sequences, while some scarce hints of edge enhancement can be spotted when dark silhouettes cross in front of brightly-lit points (namely the driving portions to and from the party scene). To counterbalance a few unavoidable issues with contrast and noise, a healthy level of detail and color solidity accentuate the pedestrian shots -- easily seen in any close-ups, but really obvious in the more volatile sequences containing dirt, sweat and water. This transfer serves the film's content extremely well, keeping it properly rich and eerie.
Though there are a few scream-worthy scenes in Dead In 3 Days, it's a pretty tame affair when it comes to sound design. Largely relying on softer aural details to create its mood, the German 5.1 track stays relatively front-heavy and without much in the way of rear channel activity. Though I relied on the German subtitles, vocal clarity never distorts and appears to be rather clear in all dialogue scenes -- if a bit muted for ambiance sake. Little effects, like the subtle clanging of broken bottle shards and the flailing of an out-of-water fish, all sound appropriately crisp within the environment, while the musical accompaniment plays and equally spacial part in the design by keeping a lower audibility unless needed. An English 5.1 dub is also available, along with optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles.
If you're in the mood for by-the-numbers body count horror with a kooky twist, all not in the English language, then Dead In 3 Days offers a stylish and gritty execution of the now-commonplace formula. It brings Andreas Prochaska to the public light, hopefully serving as a foot in the door for material that breaks the mold a little more than his work here. Genius Products' disc services the film's qualities just fine, sizing up this Austrian slasher as a solid Rental for genre fans looking for a splash of something different.