The Chiller channel in America seems to be the equivalent of what we have here in the UK with The Horror Channel. The slight difference being that in the last year or so Chiller have taken the bold step into making their own features. The first was the disappointingly average Remains, based on the comic book by (the brilliant) Steve Niles. The second is this – Dead Souls, and again is based on an already published work, on this occasion by Bram Stoker nominee Michael Laimo. It also retains the same director, Colin Theys.
We open in flashback with the setting of a seemingly remote farm in rural America. Benjamin Conroy (J. H. Torrance Downes) is setting about killing his family one by one. From a sharp blow to the dog, to drowning his wife, stabbing his daughter then butchering his eldest son Daniel with a hammer – not before Daniel has had time to hide baby Johnny away from this horrific familicide.
Fast forward to present day and Johnny (Jesse James) has just turned 18 and is living with his ultra-possessive foster mother who forbids mobile phones and television and keeps an obsessively sterile house. Johnny opens some mail which informs him that now he’s 18 he has inherited the farm of a Mr. Benjamin Conroy in Maine. Johnny sees this as a perfect opportunity to get away from the grip of his foster mother, who is hospitalised upon finding out the news of his discovery, and heads to the small town where he was born. Met by the real estate agent who clumsily informs him that he is in fact adopted, Johnny decides to stay the night at his new found family home despite its dilapidated state.
That evening as Johnny explores the house he stumbles upon Emma (Magda Apanowicz) who has been squatting at the property for a couple of days. As they both venture though the property it becomes apparent that something may well be watching them, none more so than when they visit the barn where Benjamin Conroy committed his heinous act.
The further into the film we get, the more frequent the supernatural happenings become, and while admittedly they don’t scare the pants off you, there’s enough atmosphere to at least make you feel quite uneasy. With the addition of Bill Moseley into the last twenty minutes as well as an interesting twist amongst the ritualistic goings on, Dead Souls turns out to be a well-made eerie little horror. There’s good chemistry between the two leads, and the old farmhouse makes for a great location. Of course, like with all direct to video horror there’s plenty to pick holes in, but in a market swamped with sub-standard, bottom line motivated crap – this at least stands comfortably above most others.