Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Charlie Haskell’s Dead Evidence.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a daytime soap opera stretched into an hour and a half movie then Dead Evidence is the film for you. We follow a couple of would-be detectives as they go on a hunt to catch a deadly serial killer and clear the name of a man who was falsely accused. What follows is 90 action packed minutes of quiet talking, melodrama, waiting in cars, and a complete lack of danger.
The cast is alright, and a lot of them are certainly better than this movie deserves. Angela Dotchin stars as Jodie Keane and Kevin Smith (not that Kevin Smith, the other one) plays John Lawless. These are our amateur detectives. Apparently the full title is Lawless: Dead Evidence and this is actually a sequel to 2001’s Lawless: Beyond Justice and 1999’s Lawless, but my DVD just bills it as Dead Evidence. John Lawless may be the titular character, but this is Angela Dotchin’s movie. For all intents and purposes she’s the lead and the one who keeps the plot moving, even if it does move at a crawl. Even towards the end when she’s reduced to a damsel in distress it’s she who resolves the situation while Lawless just sort of stands around.When it comes to the killer, this film is a mixed bag. He’s such a non-issue for the majority of the runtime that it had me wondering why he even existed. The film focuses not on the detectives attempting to stop the murders, but instead on trying to free the falsely accused man, and this is a mistake. First of all, most of this movie just has a serious lack of any danger or tension. It plods along as they try to solve the mystery, but the killer is completely absent while their efforts go elsewhere. On top of that, the man who was falsely accused is not even a remotely likable character. We find out early on that he’s had past convictions (nasty ones, too), and later on we see him straight up attempt to kill someone. Sure, his motives for this are entirely because he’s falsely behind bars, but it doesn’t really make him someone to sympathize with.
When we finally do get to meet the real killer the film improves dramatically, but this doesn’t happen until the last 15 minutes of the movie! He’s easily the best member of the cast and the scenes between him and Keane are the only time where I felt any tension at all. If he were actually acting as a clear and present danger throughout the rest of the runtime then Dead Evidence really could have been pretty good, because those last few minutes are actually rather impressive. Hell, Angela Dotchin even gets some room to breathe and has a rather badass moment towards the end. If only the rest of the movie were like this!
As far as the technicals, this is a TV movie. It’s poorly lit, the cinematography is boring, and the editing and sound design are nothing to write home about. It’s functional. Everything is in frame and in focus, but there isn’t really any creativity going on here. It just looks and feels like a cheap made for TV movie. I realize that criticizing a film for looking like the thing that it is feels a bit counterintuitive, but we’ve also seen plenty of examples of TV shows that have transcended this look over the years, so there’s no excuse for it to look so boring. The only moments that break this mold are a few spots where there’s a struggle, and the camera gets all blurry and handheld, and it just becomes a mess.
I don’t really have much else to say about Dead Evidence. I don’t think I’m going to seek out the other two films in the franchise, and I wouldn’t recommend watching this one. There are some decent performances that are wasted on an aimless and plodding script. The last few moments of the movie get genuinely tense and creepy, but by that point you’ll already be asleep.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.