• Death's Door

    Released by MVD Visual
    Released on: September 29, 2015
    Directed by: Kennedy Goldsby
    Cast: Shawn Tommy “Tiny” Lester, Obba Babatundé, Chico Benymon
    Year: 2015
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    The Movie:

    In 1931 a magician, Victor Mesmer (Obba Babatundé), is burned alive in a trick coffin by his wife and assistant. The magician vows revenge on those who wronged him as well as their future offspring. Flash forward to 2015, several obnoxious and vain young people receive a texted invitation to a party in old mansion. It turns out the mansion belonged to the magician’s family and his spirit is haunting the estate. Tonight he will get his revenge. What will this group of strangers discover about their shared backgrounds over the course of the night, and will any of them survive?

    I knew I was in for a long evening about a minute into Death’s Door, the new film by writer-director Kennedy Goldsby. As the film begins we are given the prologue, “Year: 1931” flashes on the screen followed by the magician’s backstory. So far everything seems to be on the up-and-up, however after the prologue the screen cuts to black, then in bold, white lettering “Year: Now” fills the screen. I know this is nitpicky but “now” is not a year. It is a term that denotes events which are currently happening. This bothered me because it speaks of a lack of care and attention to detail that went into the making of Death’s Door. Another, less nitpicky, example of this casual laziness is when the characters split up to search the house. One character, Suzanne (Dannie-Raye Lilley), appears to be a member of two groups simultaneously. She is with group one in one scene and with group two the following scene. I am not sure how this can happen. I understand the film’s ultra-low budget most likely prevented a continuity person to be on set, but how could Goldsby or the actress not keep track of which group she was with in the first place?

    There are other examples of carelessness throughout the film. Many of these instances are due to the script. Very few of the characters had a consistent tone. A character may begin a scene frightened and crying, however by a scene’s conclusion they are laughing and making jokes about how no one should be scared. A perfect example of this is with Bruce (Chico Benymon). He goes from being worried that he cannot get the front door opened to expressing excitement with being locked in a house with good looking women all-night long, all within the span of one scene. Another character, sorry I missed his name, scolded the group for foul language only to drop an “f-bomb” in the very next scene. I suppose the director was trying to highlight the character’s hypocrisy. Sure, that sounds good but because of every character’s inconsistency I am unsure of whether this is true. Another issue was almost every character was interchangeable. Other than the aforementioned Suzanne, who was angry and rude, the nerdy guy with Yahoo Serious styled hair, who was shy, and Susann, who was a “mean girl” stereotype, none of the characters had any sort of discernible traits. This also led to issues involving character names. The characters were so ill defined I rarely knew which names belonged to which characters.

    Tommy “Tiny” Lester is given top billing but he is only in the film for five or so minutes. I do not think he ever says anything and I am not sure what he was doing in the mansion. I suppose he was the magician’s manservant. Ultimately it does not really matter why he’s in the house as he does not do a single thing other than roaming around from room to room and looking big. His character design was interesting if for no other reason than his make-up looked like someone poured some sort of fruit jam over half of his face. He sort of looked like a giant, poor man’s Two-Face. Despite his limited screen time, Lester was the stand-out among the cast. His size and demeanor make for an intimidating presence. The rest of the cast was pretty bad. The party goers were all insufferable, the actors were bad and very unlikable. I could not wait for them to be knocked off one-by-one. However, Goldsby pulled a nasty trick on me. There is not a single death until the last five minutes when everyone but one female is killed. The kicker, they are killed off-screen, the audience is told they are killed but we do not see any of the mayhem.

    The editing of Death’s Door is also a mess. The aforesaid continuity problems plagued the entire film. Characters are put into situations with no reason or warning. There could be a scene in which all the party guests are together followed by a scene with character wondering through the house alone only to be back with the group again in the following scene. Like I already mentioned, this just shows a lack of care and patience by the filmmakers. It felt like they just wanted to make a movie, not a good movie. This is probably the most maddening thing about Death’s Door.


    MVD Visual just wants to see the world burn and thus released Death’s Door on DVD in a standard 1.78:1 video presentation. The picture is fine. Everything looks natural and there are not defects. The film was very low budget and you can tell. The cinematography is very flat and feels rushed. Death’s Door will never be anyone’s idea of a demo disc, but it is serviceable. The audio is 2.0 stereo and it was not the best. The dialogue was mixed pretty low and I had a hard time understanding what was being said by the actors. This could explain why I missed so many of the character’s names.

    The DVD debut of Death’s Door is almost entirely devoid of extra features. This is not a bad thing as I really did not want to spend any more time with the film than I already had spent. In the end, the DVD has two extras. The first is a music video for the hip-hop song Shorty Wassup. I cannot really comment on the song as I do not really remember it very well. The video however did make me recall the Fat Boys’ Are You Ready for Freddy video that was a tie-in for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. The second extra was a 7-minute featurette about the house used in the film. Goldsby and the cast and crew relate stories of how they felt and saw strange things in the house during the shoot. The entire thing was rather stupid and looked like it was shot on a smart phone. I think my favorite of the dumb stories was Goldsby’s tale of getting in his car after a day’s shoot and discovering his moon roof had mysteriously opened.

    The Final Word:

    There is no way a person can recommend Death’s Door. It has zero redeeming qualities to it. The film did not make much sense, the acting was poor, the script was bad, and the entire thing reeked of amateurism. There are so many other, better haunted house films a person can watch instead of Death’s Door. Do yourself and favor and watch one of those instead.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Man, MVD is putting out some real garbage lately. I just reviewed Deadly Revisions, and this one sounds about as bad.