Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
I went into work one morning and found sitting on my desk a stack of 15 DVDs, most of them horror, from one of my co-workers. Sorting through them, I already had one, and the rest Id never heard of with two exceptions. One was a loaner for my daughter, while the other familiar one was this movie, BLACK DAHLIA. Or so I thought it was familiar.
Obviously, the movie I thought hed loaded me was the 2006 Brian DePalma movie with Mia Kirshner in the title role. What I got was not so much. Instead, this was the 2006 direct to DVD version directed by Ulli Lommel. Thats ok, I thought; it reads on the DVD cover, From the director of The Boogeyman. Okay, well, BOOGEYMAN was, in my opinion, a failure, but it was a good looking movie, at least.
Again, not so much. Whereas I thought the box was referring to the 2005 Stephen Kay movie with Barry Watson and Emily Deschanel, what it actually meant was the 1980 movie starring John Carradine and Suzanne Love. So.
Lommel has been directing since 1974, so it should stand to reason BLACK DAHLIA should project some sense of a filmmaker who knows what hes doing. And that was my third strike. Oh, if only that meant I was out and didnt have to sit through this thing.
BLACK DAHLIA does not tell the story of the real Black Dahlia killing of Elizabeth Short in 1947. Instead, this story is set in present day Los Angeles and follows a rookie cop as he tries to track down the culprit behind a series of copycat murders.
Meanwhile, in an abandoned jail, a casting call is being held for a movie called BLACK DAHLIA. Only when the actresses show up, their audition is to be strapped to a table and murdered by an obviously insane woman in a school girl uniform and her two silent thugs, one a shirtless man in a stained butchers apron and a black leather mask, the other a man in a crude baseball uniform wearing a batters helmet with a football helmet faceguard over the front. The fact these are the only three people at the audition and that theyre all covered in blood splatter doesnt seem to faze or confuse any of the auditioning actresses. Granted, Ive never been to an audition, but I think three people in an abandoned jail all covered in blood would raise my suspicions.
While the rookie cop, Rick, finds himself becoming obsessed with the real Elizabeth Short, through a series of internet searches he finds a connection between a movie producer who was going to work with Short in 1947 and the casting call for the BLACK DAHLIA movie being made. Well, its not really being made, its just a front for the murders, but you know what I mean.
While Ricks partner is boozing it up at the bar, Rick goes to the jail and heads into the scene alone, without backup, by himself, and its not a good call. Luckily his partner sobers up just long enough to answer Ricks page and the cavalry swoops in just as Rick has been strapped to the kill table and his eyeball plucked out with a pair of tongs.
Yes, BLACK DAHLIA is a gory movie, very much so. Lommel certainly didnt shy away from showing the goods. There is a ton of blood in this movie, as well as lots of severed body parts and half a dozen kill scenes. In fact, the majority of the movie is taken up by these kill scenes and the case could be made for this movie only existing so Ulli Lommel had a reason to film as much gratuitous gore as he could cram into one film. I mean it certainly wasnt an intense character piece, and it wasnt in an effort to answer once and for all what really happened to Elizabeth Short--although both of things did come across in this movie, as we see Ricks character development and a fictionalized resolution to Shorts case does indeed come about. But those werent the reasons Lommel made this movie.
Considering some of his other movies around this same time were ZODIAC KILLER (2005), B.T.K. KILLER (2005), GREEN RIVER KILLER (2005), followed by SON OF SAM (2008) and D.C. SNIPER (2010), it becomes apparent Lommel isnt in the business of making art (funny thing, considering he worked with Andy Warhol on COCAINE COWBOYS in 1979), and instead is just sensationalizing Americas fascination with serial killings (granted, the Black Dahlia case wasnt a serial killing, but it is the most famous unsolved murder in American history). Or rather, he would be sensationalizing them, if they didnt look like utter crap. Admittedly, Im working strictly from the example of BLACK DAHLIA as Ive not seen any of Lommels other movies, but if this is the quality of his work 32 years in, then someone needs to have a talk with him about goals, standards, or maybe a new line of work.
In the acting department, this was only the second movie for both principles, Elissa Dowling (Kate, the schoolgirl-clad ringleader) and Sutton Christopher (Det. Rick--also his last movie), and it shows. I wouldnt be surprised to discover this was the only movie for a lot of the actors, and rightfully so. Please please, everyone, go back to your shift at Dennys, someones Moons over My Hammy are getting cold. I will have to give Dowling credit, though, for living the dream. Since starring in this movie in 2006 (her 2nd movie, remember), shes racked up a total of 57 movies in 6 years, some of them even decent movies like the 2009 After Dark Horrorfest movie DREAD. That same year she was also in VAGINAL HOLOCAUST and then in 2010s DAHMER VS. GACY, so, you know, take from that what you will. Myself, Im just surprised I found a valid a reason to use the words VAGINAL HOLOCAUST in a sentence.
The effects here consist mostly of tons of blood and a small number of rubber severed body parts, like a leg, half a foot, a hand. They were nothing special, used strictly for shock value.
The third biggest problem I had with this movie, and the one I think is really going to turn off the most viewers, was the editing. Aside from the acting, aside from the cheap video quality of the film, the editing by Christian Behm (credited a Xgen, and also starring in the movie as Det. Christian), was a disgrace. Someone was having way too much fun with all the fancy buttons on their editing machine. Weve got slow motion, weve got black and white, weve got a few instances of reversed footage, weve got several shots that just repeat 3 or 4 times, as well as too many shots to count of footage just repeating on top of itself, so were watching the same scene play out in layers, all simultaneously. Its headache inducing and is the true downfall of an already bad movie. My advice, when your movie sucks, dont assume fancy editing is going to make it better. Just let it suck and try to do better next time. I mean, the dudes been making movies almost as long as Ive been alive, he should not be turning out work this cheap.
Ulle Lommels BLACK DAHLIA is a train wreck from the first frame to the last. You can watch this movie, but you wont be doing yourself any favors. Its not even cheesy fun, not really. Id put this movie only a cut or two above a piece of crap like Carlos Battss AMERICAN GOTHIC, and only because this movie has a mostly-coherent story. But its not a good time. So do yourself and your DVD player a favor and steer clear of this one.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age