Thursday, January 14, 2010

Diagnosis: Death (2009)

The big selling point of Diagnosis: Death is that it features the trio from cult comedy show Flight of the Conchords (Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby and Jemaine Clement) but fans of the show shouldn’t get too excited…each are only in the film for less than a few scenes and none of them play pivotal characters.

Perhaps a better selling point for horror fans is that the official synopsis compares it to Peter Jackson’s early films like Dead Alive and Bad Taste…too bad Diagnosis: Death doesn’t remotely live up to this comparison. Perhaps a more precise title of the film would have been Diagnosis: Zzzzzzzzz, because it nearly put me to sleep.

Teacher Andre (Raybon Kan) and student Juliet (Jessica Grace Smith), both with terminal disease, are both undergoing experimental treatments at a drug-testing facility, lead by the Nurse Ratchet-type Nurse Margaret Bates (Suze Tye). A side effect of the drug is hallucinations, but when both Andre and Juliet start experiencing the same sinister visions of a horrific double murder that may have occurred at the facility, they decide to get to the bottom of the mystery…even if it threatens their lives.

Diagnosis: Death does have its moments of laugh-out-loud quirky humor, but that is the only part of the film that actually rings true. The horrific elements of the film fall severely short, complete with stereotypical Ju-On/Grudge-type scares (a creepy kid, suicide/murder, watery footprints, etc.) and horrendously rendered “ghosts” (including a ridiculously out-of-place scene where ghostly skeletons are boning…ok, that scene alone might be worth a rental). I will say there are some disturbing scenes, including a hanged woman and said creepy kid hiding under a desk, but they were too far apart and the rest of the film dragged.

The film felt unbalanced and at times it felt like I was watching two different movies – a comedy on one hand and a B-horror film on the other – and it just didn’t feel like the elements of horror and comedy ever melded together to create a cohesive film. It’s a pity that the pacing and storyline were so off, because the actors all did a good job. The film is based in New Zealand, and I believe most of the actors are from there. Raybon kan and Jessica Grace Smith were great in their roles, though their age differences made things a bit awkward at times. I especially enjoyed Suze Tye’s performance as the no-nonsense Nurse Bates. And, of course, The Flight of the Conchords guys all did a great job in their brief performances…but seriously, we are talking mere minutes of screen time, so don’t get too excited.

Despite a few positives, Diagnosis: Death arrives DOA and unfortunately can’t be resuscitated with even the quirkiest of humor. Unless you wanna see a couple of wispy, CGI skeletons doing it doggy style, steer clear!

Buy it on Amazon!

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