Let’s address the elephant in the room, right off the bat, shall we? No, I have absolutely no idea how they managed to get Lori Petty and Judd Hirsch for this movie. I cannot think of a bigger waste than inviting these two powerhouse performers into a project where they get almost no room to play. Not to mention that Lori Petty’s character, Wanda, is so excruciatingly annoying that it almost made me forget that she’s one of my favorite actresses of all time. This being said, I apologize to these two legends of film for the review I am about to write…

The second elephant in the room? I almost can’t tell you what this movie was about. Me, a professional movie reviewer, couldn’t come up with a cohesive way to share this story with you. A DEADLY LEGEND tries to tell an intricate story, canvassing time and space, but the over-abundance of background characters, the lack of depth in those characters, and almost impossible “family tree” (so to speak) make it almost impossible to follow. To put it briefly: Joan Huntar (Kristen Anne Ferraro) is a real estate developer. She’s a year out from a tragic car accident that took the life of her husband. She just made the deal of her life – buying an old summer camp to develop. Unfortunately, the camp comes with a history, and warnings from Carl (Judd Hirsch) go unheeded as they set out to the camp to celebrate and break ground. It’s a family affair – though I’ll admit that I had trouble keeping track of which families were which – and that means more fodder for the ancient energy surrounding this land. As construction begins, a door is opened, and the truth about the land and the truth about Joan and her family are forced to come to the surface – before it’s too late.

A DEADLY LEGEND thrusts folklore and the paranormal into a modern, brightly lit, completely atmosphere-free world. While I may be able to find pieces of true, deep folklore, the fact that they refer to the archaeological finding as “The Stonehenge of America” should give you an idea of the historical depth we are dealing with here. A DEADLY LEGEND ricochets between poor attempts at humor, poor attempts at spirituality which come off as culturally insensitive, and poor attempts at horror that include terribly un-scary ethereal apparitions. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be historical fiction, a slasher, or a horror comedy. And when those three things cram into a movie together, it just leaves me scratching my head.

Not for lack of trying, the majority of the performances fall flat. Eric Wolf, who also wrote this script, gives one of the more demonstrative performances I’ve seen in some time, as a character who not who subtly has the name, “Renfield” (can you imagine where he ends up at the end of the film?). One of the better performances is from Corbin Bernsen as Matthias, the original land owner of this mystical property. This is another circumstance where the writing needed tightening up – the relationship between Matthias and his son Jack (David Perez-Ribada) is discussed briefly at the beginning of the film, hinting at a deeper backstory, but it never circles back. This infuriates someone like me, who writes myself, and has a pet peeve about loose ends. It’s storytelling 101 to know the theory of Chekhov’s gun, but in A DEADLY LEGEND it feels like the guns line up like a twenty-one-gun salute and never fire. And with a nearly 100-minute runtime, there’s zero excuses for unfinished business.

I wanted to like A DEADLY LEGEND. The cast excited me. But within the first ten minutes of the film I knew it wasn’t going to be anything I wanted it to be. Unfortunately, as much as I hoped and prayed for it, salvation in the form of a sudden second wind or change of pace never came along. I definitely don’t think the “legend” made it into this cut of the film.

3/10 stars

A DEADLY LEGEND
RATING:UR
Runtime:1 hr 37Mins.
Directed By:
Pamela Moriarty
Written By:
Eric Wolf