Let me preface this review by stating that I would rather bathe in a tub full of rusty tacks and lemon juice than watch another horror movie that features:
A) a ghostly little girl with long wet hair
B) a person who visits a place that haunts them in their dreams
C) “haunted” mud/water/swimming pool/jacuzzi/liquid of any kind
D) any combination of the above
Which brings us to “The Marsh”; a straight-to-DVD cheapie that borrows elements from just about every ghostly revenge flick ever made, and cobbles them together into a flick that alternates between effectively creepy and maddeningly redundant, often at the same time.
Gabrielle Anwar stars as Claire Holloway, a successful children’s author who suffers from recurring nightmares about a little girl. Claire sees a town on television that reminds her of her dreams, and, after a few taps on her keyboard, finds herself renting the very home she sees in her visions. When she arrives at the home, Claire is almost immediately beset upon by the ghosts of the young girl, a teenage boy, and visions of the various townsfolk who are somehow connected to all of this. The town’s newspaper editor, Noah (Louis), fills Claire in on some of the history of the house she’s living in, but it’s not until she teams up with paranormal investigator, Hunt (Whitaker), that she finds herself knee deep in the muck of small town politics and the truth about a dark secret that not only threatens to expose the guilty, but bring to light something Claire’s had hidden inside her all her life.
I’ll be quite honest; I nearly ejected The Marsh from my DVD player only ten minutes in as I was convinced that I was about to see just another paint-by-numbers Ringu rip-off, and, in a way, that’s sort of what The Marsh is. Still, it’s got some creepy moments (especially when Claire first moves into the house), and sports a fine pair of performances from Anwar and Whitaker (who last teamed up in 1993’s “Body Snatchers”). The FX work is also well above usual straight-to-DVD quality, with eerily made-up ghosties and some really cool CGI stuff during the film’s rather anti-climactic showdown. All of this good stuff comes hand in hand with a whole lotta bad, though, as there’s nothing about The Marsh that we haven’t heard/seen/read (pick a sense, any sense) before. We also get a sort of triple denouement, including an awkward “happy” moment, and the requisite “the evil isn’t really defeated” ending that go a long way toward destroying any good will the solid FX and performances built up.
Sony releases “The Marsh” with a short making-of featurette, as well as an assortment of trailers for other Sony releases.
The Marsh is a competently made and well-acted film that is doomed by its own worn out premise. I’m old enough to remember the end of the slasher boom and how bored fans were with that particular sub-genre, and that seems to be happening all over again with these Asian-inspired ghost stories. With all of the Ringu knock-offs studios have flooded the market with, I’m hoping that these films have reached their saturation point. I know they have with me, but if you've still got a jones for this sort of thing, The Marsh is a better-than-average example of an increasingly tired formula.