The Black Dahlia Haunting Review

black dahlia

I had been looking forward to seeing The Black Dahlia Haunting for a while and was fortunate to catch a free screening of the film at this Sunday’s Days of the Dead Los Angeles Convention.

Written and directed by Brandon Slagle (who also appears onscreen as catalyst Malcolm),  the film has much to offer for fans of the paranormal, as well as true crime and horror fans.  Set in the present day, the film features period flashbacks that explore the life and death of Elizabeth Short, who was labeled by the media as The Black Dahlia.

The Black Dahlia Haunting has the look and feel of a considerably more expensive film.  Sporting a sleek, atmospheric look and feel,  seamless stock footage and guerilla-style shooting at famous Hollywood/L.A. locations (such as Griffith Observatory) are employed to great effect in creating a sense of place.   The modern day location where the Dahlia’s body was found is also featured as the site of a ghostly encounter.

Strong performances are delivered across the board in this look at the intersection of the past and present.

The film centers on Holly–played by Devanny Pinn, who delivers a standout performance as a young woman who comes to LA to visit her blind brother Tyler (an effective Noah Dahl) in a mental institution.  I was surprised to learn of Dahl’s young age–born at the end of 1997–as  his performance shows a maturity beyond his years.  Pinn’s transition to being under the influence/possession of Short is intense and well done.  A shower encounter between the ghost and Holly manages to be both creepy and somewhat erotic.

Short is brought to life by Alexis Iacono as a gritty, flawed individual and the character is not placed on a pedestal as seen in many previous incarnations.  Iacono’s Old Hollywood looks and take on Short create a portrait of a woman whose beauty disguises a less refined woman making her way through Tinseltown.

Fans of Ghost Hunters will get to see a decidedly different Britt Griffith deliver a compelling performance as a seemingly sympathetic doctor with a dark side and connection to the original killing.  Griffith capably handles both sides of the character and the sharing of much of the story’s exposition.

Cleve Hall (of Syfy’s Monster Man) exhibits menace and perhaps a somewhat conflicted relationship toward killing (at moments gleeful and yet eyes brimming with tears at others) as the captor and torturer of The Black Dahlia.

Brandon Slagle convincingly portrays a man troubled and haunted by uncovering a desert dagger/murder weapon which retains a powerful supernatural influence that is exerted upon him.

Jessica Cameron has a memorable cameo as a pre-Marilyn Monroe Norma Jeane who advises/consoles Short after Short attempts an improvised abortion.

Theories about the crime are incorporated and subtly interwoven with the larger story arcs.  Twists and turns abound in The Black Dahlia Haunting and the film is worth a second viewing.

–Cory Graham @ 2013

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