Review by Chuckie Snyder
December 28th, 2015
I have been a huge fan of the horror genre for quite some time now. I usually avoid mainstream hollywood horror because it tends to be dumbed down, relying on horror cliches to appeal to mainstream audiences whereas Independent horror films are often smarter and take more risks .
Some good examples of extremely well-made Indie horror films are HONEYMOON (2014), ABSENTIA (2010), RESOLUTION (2012), STAKE LAND (2010), and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). All of these films prove that you can showcase scares, original stories and strong acting despite a limited budget. Which is why I get especially frustrated when an independent horror film like ADALINE tries to follow the same beats and cliches as mainstream Hollywood horror (I guess in an attempt to make money at any cost). No wonder we have so many remakes and sequels these days.
ADALINE tells the story of Daniela, a San Francisco native who inherits an old house in the north country side of California from a recently deceased relative. Once Daniela moves into the house she discovers a diary from the 19th century that tells the tale of an ancient curse that surrounds Daniela’s family. As Daniela reads the novel the horrors of the past start manifesting in the present.
This story and set-up is a very common theme in horror (i.e. the sins of the past coming back to haunt the present) so this needed a very fresh take to keep me intrigued. Unfortuantely, this comes up short since I've seen this done before and more successfully in other films. This caused the attempt at scares to be too predictable. Another problem is the acting. Most of the actors/actresses have been under directed and come off unconvincing. Jill Evyn who plays the main character Daniela (“Dani” for short) seems to be sleepwalking through her part. She comes across as dull and boring and I never believed that she was in any mortal danger which is so critical in an independent horror film (such as Marilyn Burns' ferocious turn in the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASACRE or even Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST). When the lead character is strong, it can make up for weaker supporting performances. Here though, Evyn is just not able to carry the film causing the other weak perfomances to loom larger. One bright spot though is Emily Claey as Dani’s plucky best friend Megan. Claey succeeds in putting gumption behind her delivery and rises above the material, which I thought was commendable. I would like to see her in better scripted roles since she had the most screen presence. Another good quality of the film that I must commend is the physical production. For a film that supposedly had a modest budget the film looks great - beautifully shot and lensed. The colors and compositions are far above average especially during some of the interior night scenes around the house. On looks alone, the cinematography at times creates a sense of ominous dread and eerie atmosphere. However, once the actors start speaking or showing any emotional reaction all sense of dread and danger become lost.
It's kind of a shame that better actors couldn't be found to compliment the strong production. Thinking about it now, I could of really enjoyed this film more had the actors been able to sell the script. Stronger actors might have covered up the predictable plot and the dialogue does have some funny banter. Despite strong cinematography and production values, weak casting ultimately makes ADALINE a missed opportunity.