Deadline is a 2009 movie about a writer under pressure of time to finish her latest work in progress, a theme that I found sufficiently close to home to tempt me to watch it. The writer in question goes away to stay in a quiet house in order to get the work done, a method that seems very sensible – in theory. But not, perhaps, if the house is in the middle of nowhere, and the writer’s violent former lover has just been released from prison.
The star of the film, Brittany Murphy, died in sad circumstances shortly after the film was made, and it would be pleasing to report that the movie was a good showcase for her talents. But, for a start, I found it difficult to believe in her character as a writer. There was nothing in the script to persuade me that this attractive, young and utterly flaky woman was really likely to be a writer. I’m not, of course, saying that writers can’t be attractive, young, or utterly flaky! Just that Brittany Murphy didn’t remind me of any writer I’ve ever met. Nor did the script make any effort to make her (or anyone else in the film) likeable.
Once she is installed in the house to set about writing, we are treated to a range of ‘creepy’ effects – dripping taps, falling chairs, swinging lampshades, creaking doors – that were clichés long before Ms Murphy was born. The action warms up, though, when she discovers a camcorder and a set of tapes. These seem to show former occupants of the house, a man and his pregnant lover, in a dangerously deteriorating relationship. But are the tapes what they seem?
There is surely much that is very interesting to be said in crime novels and films about voyeurism, but Deadline does not say it, in my opinion. The merit of the film is that it is not boring, but although the script does hold the attention, it struck me as a missed opportunity. Disappointing.