Reviews: The Dead Talk Back

Its not great but . . .

This is a movie we're predisposed to dislike. I'm not saying we shouldn't. It appeared on MST 3 K which even on a bad day can find a lot to ridicule in any movie (even Casablanca). Its an older movie so theres going to be Values Dissonance, the performances are serviceable if a bit over the top, but somewhat typical for that era of movie making.

Our protagonist looks goofy with the actor being a 21 year old man trying to play a much older character which, combined with the fact that he works in someone's basement and investigates the paranormal, leaves him looking like an obsessive DnD geek/Basement Dweller stereotype that would make Tom Hanks blush. The other characters are creepy and the Holier-Than-Thou character is not believable, Poes Law be damned.

But there is one element of the movie most people criticize that I found actually pretty clever, which is the fact that the dead never talk back. Its clear Dr Krasner believes in his research. He thinks he's on the brink of contacting departed spirits or raising the dead. He provides a long lecture at the beginning of the movie about this, which would set any audience up with the expectation that they're about to really see this happen. By the end, we're right there with our room full of suspects believing that this is what we're about to see. The cops have legitimized him by saying they've employed his unorthodox methods in the past. Krasner seems confident in his research and delivers a compelling pitch to his captive audience playing on their fears. In the end, we see that it was one long bluff.

So what was the point of that? Well, we have to go back to what we saw earlier with the cops referring to Dr Krasner's unorthodox methods. We would have assumed the first time around, that they were referring to his research into the paranormal, but now it should be clear that the unorthodox methods he's used to help them involve an elaborate ruse, playing on Krasner's reputation, to scare the guilty into confessing. Would this work in real life? Would it be admissible? Maybe not, but its the sort of thing we saw in procedurals all the time, it works in Hollywoodland. This may also explain where Krasner gets his funding. We're left wondering how much of what we saw is real, the film leaves things open to the audience.