The Dead Center review: A film that could be the perfect double-bill companion to The Autopsy of Jane Doe

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Shane Carruth, star and filmmaker behind Primer and Upstream Colour, leads The Dead Center as a hospital psychiatrist whose world turns upside down after admitting a John Doe to his ward. The patient in question is an amnesiac who believes he has returned from the dead, and he doesn’t think that he’s come back alone.

One of the standout elements in The Dead Center is the sound design. It’s meticulous in its mission to make the world feel authentic. You can hear everything, from the bite of a burger, to the slicing of flesh. The hospital ward that has been captured, brings the film to life as there’s a richness and depth to the sounds. You’re instantly transported to a hospital environment and it feels genuinely real.

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The use of a hospital ward (that for once looks like a hospital ward) makes the setting familiar. It then becomes chilling when odd things start occurring. It’s very Clive Barker in it’s delivery. The famous horror author and filmmaker likes to make unusual things happen within worlds that feel very ordinary; Senese replicates the same formula. The camerawork, especially towards the start, is almost documentary in its style. The juxtaposition of that, with the shock sequences of intense horror and gore, take the viewer by surprise. This jarring adds an extra layer of unease.

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Not just because of the John Doe character, The Dead Center could be the perfect companion to Autopsy of Jane Doe. Both introduce medical professional’s to the twisted world of the Occult, and both manage to be very creepy. There’s also a mystery at the heart of our story, one that offers a reasonable amount of suspense for the viewer.

Where The Dead Center falls short is with the pacing, which is a little off. It starts well and reels you in almost immediately, but suffers from a rather stagnant middle that is too slow and long, before picking up again towards the end. The weak middle let’s down what is otherwise a compelling enigmatic tale told in the ‘real’ world.

The Dead Center review by Kat Hughes, March 2019.

The Dead Center screens at Frightfest Glasgow. 

The Dead Center