Directed by actor Jordan Barker ("The Marsh" being his second directorial effort after "My Brother's Keeper"), "The Marsh" is a chilly, moody and somewhat "old school" little bit of horror. The film stars Gabrielle Anwar as Claire Holloway, a successful author and illustrator whose rather creepy books - like "The Swamp", her latest - sell well. She's plagued by dark dreams, many of which inspire her work.
When she comes across a swamp that looks eerily like the one in her dreams, she becomes drawn to it and decides to stay in an old bed and breakfast that also looks oddly like the one in her book. She even starts seeing people from her dreams and feels a strange paranormal presence that gets stronger the longer she stays in the house. After a frightening moment when the room shifts (nice CG for a small film), trembles and a little ghost crosses her path, she seeks out the advice of Hunt (Forest Whitaker), a paranormal investigator.
The film's plot, while interesting in ways - having Clare's dreams that she's been writing about brought to clear, vivid life - but familiar and "Ring"-like in others. There's also a few too many coincidences and plot holes, although if one's willing to suspend disbelief, these are fairly easily passed by. The performances are satisfactory, if not great: Whitaker has been better elsewhere, and Anwar seems oddly calm given the events her character is witnessing.
While "The Marsh" may not be without some flaws in the screenplay, what I enjoyed most about the film was the look of it. The production has found a small town that manages to be an average small town, yet has a slight air of menace. The house at the center of the film is also wonderfully creepy without looking dark and foreboding. While there's not too many visual effects in the film, what visual effects there are are really rather impressive for a smaller production.
"The Marsh" has a few plot holes and some clunky dialogue, but - flaws aside - when it does work, it does manage some genuinely eerie moments and memorable visuals.
VIDEO: "The Marsh" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Seemingly by intent, the film has a light layer of fine grain that is seen throughout the majority of the running time. This actually does add to the moody, haunting imagery. Sharpness and detail are not outstanding, but the chilly imagery does at least remain crisp and clear throughout most of the running time. Not surprisingly, the film presents a largely subdued color palette, which appeared accurately presented here.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation contains all the expected shock cords and jump sounds, with the surrounds doing a lot of work offering up all the sound effects and creepy ambience. Audio quality was just fine, with crisp sound effects and clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: "Making of" documentary.
Final Thoughts: "The Marsh" is a flawed (but interesting) little horror film that essentially gets its debut on DVD. Aspects of the film could have used some revision, but when it works, it works really well. Those looking for a more old-fashioned chiller may want to give this one a try as a rental.
The Film B-