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Marsh, The

Sony Pictures // R // April 17, 2007
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted April 24, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Anything can be scary when amplified with a monstrous screech. Reaching for a piece of bread or a wine glass can quake the nerves with the right accompaniment. Typical, loud, and oozing with normalcy, The Marsh seems to lack any fighting spunk for grabbing the spotlight. Though equipped with nicely rendered scenes and a magnetic performance from Forest Whitaker, this flick waltzes too close to carbon copy status to demand enough focus.

The Film:

After piecing together frightening sketches and prints for her published book, Claire (Gabrielle Anwar) continuously has viciously cold and frightening nightmares involving a child, an aggressive hillbilly in a backwoods marsh, and a creepy farmhouse. Most of these manifested nightmares poured onto the pages of her book as her ferocious inspiration. As her dreams begin to grow worse, Claire makes a few rounds online and locates a strikingly similar house to the one she illustrated for her book on Rose Marsh Farm.

Located near a shadowy marshland, she decides to take the trip to unearth the restless elements residing in this house of her nightmares. Once she steps foot within, Claire starts to point out specific images from her dreams that have manifested before her eyes at this place. A brooding, spectral aura engulfs everything around her, and it all seems rooted within this home. The sleepy little town along this eerie marsh holds some dark secrets – secrets that seem to run deep within these citizens, including a local journalist (Justin Louis) with an inquisitive eye for Claire.

As the depth of The Marsh's darkness grows richer amidst Claire and this house by the steamy bog, so do the stringent menace erupting within the room adorned with a stained glass rose. Driven to discover the extent of the paranormal potency, Claire seeks out the help of Hunt (Forest Whitaker), the local expert in paranormal activity. As he aggressively mediates inside Claire's situation with foreboding concentration, the activity of the house grows stronger and more volatile. Windows shatter, blades dangle fervently above, and the restless spirit of a young girl aches for an ethereal audience with the entangled Claire.

It's a shame the menacing evil within the house doesn't get as volatile as it wants to be within this rickety ghost story. The Marsh stringently focuses on typical scare tactics surrounding a very average, cookie cutter haunted house plot. This film's rudimentary tension squeezes on the nerves in basic fashion, right down to the scare tactics bubbling at the surface. Instead of relying on developing fear, The Marsh focuses on musical screeches, a cold blue visual filter, and marginally above average make-up that muster sparse, basic chills. Though the film's photography snaps with brilliant usage of lighting and fluctuating cobalt shades, this crackling coat of aesthetic charisma cannot support very much of the film itself.

A clearly defined wall rises that separates an absorbing, blisteringly visual premise from this dull, drawn out plot. Sure, there's a story looming in the haze of the sleepy, creepy town alongside the bog; however, it's not terribly ensnaring because it feels so darn familiar. However, the film ends up being better than it should be due to Forest Whitaker's inherent electricity. Not only is he a scene-stealer, but he's practically a film stealer from his entrance halfway down the line and onward. Though none of the performances in The Marsh reflects poor quality, only Whitaker's Hunt felt inspired, intense, and genuinely gripping. Within this ensemble, most of the characters flow with the narrative, while Hunt seems to be the only dynamic and engaging presence. That's the way he seems crafted, and that's exactly what Whitaker delivers. He lacks the capacity to save this flick, but he musters up more viewer gratification for plugging along.

Though nothing original, The Marsh does do a fair job in delivering a top-down, no frills screech fest. Turning around every corner will garnish a predictable spook and an unnervingly loud scrape; however, if taken with a grain of salt and next to no inklings of brainpower, this little fright machine might prove to be an eerie, foggy good time. Expect the typical twists and turns, including a relatively unexpected plot twist amidst the family trauma, and you'll at least gather a scoop or two of murky satisfaction from The Marsh's cold, slimy essence. If anything, the artistically crisp azure title sequence at the start should hopefully justify at least a margin of the trouble.

The DVD:

The Marsh is presented from Sony Pictures in a standard DVD keepcase with medoicre coverart and discart.

The Video:

Presented in a widescreen anamorphic image, the chilly visuals crisply etched onto the screen are part of The Marsh's limited appeal. All the fluent, icy shades looked fine, though a bit grainy and lacking solidity at sporadic times. Minor details generally looked good through all the characters and the architecture of the small town locales. Though not perfect, this frigid transfer gets the job done admirably.

The Audio:

The other piece of this little frosty thriller is the aural scare tactics. Presented in a Dolby 5.1 surround track, The Marsh did sound quite decent. Lots of mid-range crashes and higher-pitched, nail-scraping shrieks slice through the speakers. All these elements were effective in serving their duty to the film. Dialogue was predominately clear, though a tad soft in a few scenes that needed a notch or two cranked up to hear everything. Overall, it'll be sure to give you a crisp jolt or two, that's for sure. A Thai audio track is also available, as well as a plethora of subtitles including English, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese and Spanish.

The Extras:

A Behind-The-Scenes Featurette focuses in on segmented, specific portions for each key member of the cast and crew. We're introduced to Jordan Barker, a first time director bequeathed with The Marsh as his initial project. The individual actors and actresses take turns describing the filmmaking process and the rapport they've built with the director and the other cast members. It's a little gushy, but most of the dialogue wasn't too sugary. In particular, the descriptions of the set design and execution for the marsh sequences grabbed interest.

In addition, a Scene Selection and few Trailers for other similar Sony products are included.


Final Thoughts:

Lacking in individuality, The Marsh wisps about like a very boisterous echo of past haunted house / spooky town stories. Much like the moist area the film is set in, the film sloshes and stomps with loud abandon, but just ultimately feels soggy. However, if the mood strikes you for a wailing, scratching, and overall erratic nerve-jumbler of a confection, then The Marsh holds that capability for a thrill or two. Only worth the effort once, The Marsh exemplifies the disposable, mediocre scary sound machine worth nothing but a Rental.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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