Almost Dead

(Ruben Preuss, USA, 1994)


For anyone who ever suffered withdrawal symptoms, deeply in need of a Shannen Doherty fix, after Beverly Hills 90210 flatlined, weep no more.

Shannen got busy in the 1990s telemovie industry, and these remarkable creations have since circulated on video and cable. Her taste is impeccable, judging that erotic psychodramas (Obsessed [1992] and Blindfold: Acts of Obsession [1994]) or horrific thrillers (Almost Dead) are the best vehicles to showcase her (quote unquote) mature acting abilities.

Where the films of the obsession cycle unfailingly pair Doherty with older men and play out rather perverse sexual scenarios, Almost Dead presents her as a fraught, hallucinating heroine struggling to make the world believe in her torments.

As Katherine Roshak, Professor in Abnormal Psychology, Shannen struts around in a chic lab coat and doles out massive doses of electricity to research subjects that she tearfully refers to as her “closest friends”.

Katherine suddenly begins seeing her dead mother everywhere, grimacing and in decay as if she had just stepped out of the grave.

So it is off to a sleepy small town to investigate that grave, with the help of local hunk and rebel cop Dominic (Costas Mandylor). A scary local priest (Eric Christmas) frightens her with talk of the Devil’s temptations, but other more earthly clues to this mystery abound.

It takes Shannen around eighty minutes longer than the viewer to pick up on these heavily telegraphed portents. Still, Ruben Preuss’ telemovie has a certain trashy magnetism, and Shannen even gets to fight with the undead in a climax set in a lush funeral parlour.

© Adrian Martin August 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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