It's always nice when you can get a couple different subgenres running together with some kind of accuracy, and A Dead Calling will show very nicely how the ghost story and the murder mystery can work together.
As for this whodunit, Rachel, our intrepid reporter heroine, has just left New York following the death of her fiance. Getting back on the horse, she takes a job with her hometown television station and begins doing a piece on the architecture of the great houses in the area. One of these great houses has a history to it that revolves very intimately around Rachel and, as we'll find out, will take a lot of blood and corpses to make sense out of it.
First, they did a very, very solid job building the tension throughout about the first half-hour of the movie. All the shots of our intrepid young reporter roaming about the abandoned house are wracked with tension, and by the time we get to our first killing, the tension built explodes to maximum effect. It's a good, standard way to make a scary part of a movie--build tension, release. The more tension built, the bigger the release should be.
Also, there'll be plenty of those good old-fashioned who's-going-crazy moments to go around. You know, those moments where they try to establish that somebody's seeing things that really aren't there? And a few possibly unintentional laughs, besides--check out the intrepid reporter's dad (Sid Haig, back in yet another nicely done non-clown role), as he teaches the basics of handgun safety.
A Dead Calling boils down to fairly simple terms. It's a nice murder mystery, a fairly taut ghost story, and overall, pretty solidly done. Although the last forty minutes or so watch like one of Lifetime's endless array of execrable made for TV movies,
But there are some problems--for instance, the back of the box will give away a major plot point. Thanks to a major typographical error, we learn the truth about our intrepid reporter a whole lot sooner than we want to. Not to mention a whole lot sooner than the movie actually intended.
The ending gets really sinister really fast, which comes as a real surprise given the tone of the whole rest of the movie. Think about watching a Lifetime original movie that accidentally got the last fifteen minutes of The Exorcism of Emily Rose dubbed in by mistake. Think about that and you'll think just how incredibly big a dichotomy that is. As if that weren't enough, a couple extra nifty twists will find their way into the plot.
The special features include Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, director's commentary, a photo gallery, audio options, and trailers for A Dead Calling, An American Haunting, Blackwater Valley Exorcism, Blood Stains, The Descent, Zombie Nation, and See No Evil.
All in all, A Dead Calling is nicely done. There's a whole lot of elements in this little stew, and bringing them all together like this should prove very enjoyable.