Posted: 10/03/2004

 

A Chronicle of Corpses

(2001)

by Barry Meyer



Not quite your average slasher movie.


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A Chronicle Of Corpses is a sparse, talkative creeper that comes off as a mix somewhere between Hammer and Bergman. The film opens in a moody 19th century Gothic sort of way, with fog enshrouded country sides, and eerie moon lit scenery. Before you can take a breath, though, the body count quickly begins adding up when a mysterious killer attacks from the woods. But, don’t be fooled — this isn’t your normal stalking slasher genre film with masked madmen and horror clich├ęs. The killer may have struck early in the story, but the real horror comes when the wealthy family at the center of all the murders begins to slowly implode from the aftereffects. Trust, kinship, and honor begin to crumble as doubt sets in. It’s not so much a whodunit as is it is a what-it’s-done.

Director Andrew Repasky McElhinny is certainly inspired in his making Chronicle, turning the focus inward and examining the family and their various relationships, and how they are all dealing with the murderous terror that crumbles their very foundations. Peppered throughout the film are small moments of social commentary, touching on the smugness and supremacy of the ruling class, but the center of the story is the spiraling and maddening downfall of this American family.

Chronicle is full of dread and trepidation, but somehow it never gets around to really sparking any fear or provoking enough thought. The performances from most of the cast are earnest — especially from soap-actress Marj Dusay — but the lengthy monologues throughout the script don’t allow the players to ultimately flesh out their characters in a more involving way. Too often the action is overly staged, leaving the characters stagnant - on screen as well as emotionally - and they never truly develop into much more outside the words they speak.

This stilted dialogue and shot selection make this production itself more a stage play than a cinematic experience. It’s not just the long stationary takes, but also the structure of the shot that sometimes are so simplistic and lackluster that entire scenes begin to teeter on monotony. Yes, monotony and simplicity can be used to great success in a film - pick any Bergman film - but only under the guidance of a skilled storyteller. McElhinny is not yet so skilled, but he certainly didn’t fail with this film.

Chronicle isn’t quite a fully discovered project, but should be looked at as more of an experiment from a budding filmmaker who is testing out his new wings.

Barry Meyer is a writer living in the wilds of Jersey.



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