A DEADLY LEGEND | ©2020 Gravitas Ventures

A DEADLY LEGEND | ©2020 Gravitas Ventures

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Kristen Anne Ferraro, Andee Buccheri, John Pope, Judd Hirsch, Corbin Bernsen, Daniella DeCaro, Eric Wolf, Jean Tree, Lori Petty
Writer: Eric Wolf
Director: Pamela Moriarty
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Release Date: July 24, 2020

A DEADLY LEGEND is a deceptively generic title for a horror movie that has impressively complex mythology. Unfortunately, the narrative ambitions exceed the grasp of director Pamela Moriarty and writer Eric Wolf, but their efforts to do something new are admirable.

In fact, the storytelling is so dense that it’s a bit surprising to find that A DEADLY LEGEND is not based on a novel. The movie starts with one of those ghost on the road incidents. A year later, accident survivor Joan Huntar (Kristen Anne Ferraro) is a widow and her two teens, Krissy (Andee Buccheri) and Connor (John Pope), have lost their father. Joan is intent on building a resort in a small mountain town. There was a massacre fifty years ago on the planned building site, and that turns out to be the least of it.

Antiques store owner Carl (Judd Hirsch) tries to talk the town out of letting Joan break ground on the construction site, while New Age shop proprietor Matthias Leary (Corbin Bernsen) encourages Krissy and her friend Amy (Daniella DeCaro) to purchase some crystals in case they want to communicate with the spirits.

Soon, all of the characters find themselves enmeshed in a tug of war between two opposing supernatural powers. One wants to open a demonic gate; the other wants to keep the gate closed, but doesn’t care who it kills in the process.

Director Moriarty makes the most of some handsome environments (A DEADLY LEGEND was shot in Hudson Valley, NY), with good cinematography from d.p. Lars Elling Lunde. There are some nifty interior locations (the real establishments are thanked in the end credits) that we wish we could spend more time exploring.

Moriarty also gets fine performances from some of the cast, though others either overdo it or are unduly stoic. It’s a commendably diverse group, unlike the all- or mostly-white lineups in many low-budget horror films.

Moriarty makes made the odd editorial choice of concluding many scenes with a rapid fade to black, as though expecting a commercial interruption. It definitely lets us know that the action is moving somewhere else, but it’s distracting. Likewise, partway through, we feel like we need a scorecard to keep track of who is being approached, cajoled, and/or attacked by which side. Ambiguity can be intriguing, but this is outright confusion. A perplexing tag scene doesn’t help. Gore is plentiful, but there are no effective jump scares.

Ultimately, A DEADLY LEGEND feels like it’s bitten off more than it can chew. However, when too many horror movies seem like they’ve got no original notions at all, it’s good to see one that makes an effort on that score.

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