A lame-brained zombies + evil wizards hybrid, special effects man Brian A. Metcalf's feature debut Fading of the Cries (his previous directorial credits include 2006's 24: The DVD Board Game) boasts lots of green-screen work, blurry and unconvincing action and a lot of alternately turgid and deliriously silly exposition. Writer Michael (Thomas Ian Nicholas), apparently hasn't read a great deal of ghost fiction: he wonders what it means when he hears disembodied laughter in his new house's attic at night. His plucky niece Sarah (Hallee Hirsh) finds herself in the middle of a zombie plague after wearing an amulet Michael gave her as a child. Amidst random ghouls Sarah's protected only by Jacob (Jordan Matthews), whose jet-black bob and Keanu-esque delivery confirm him as a fighter with mystical powers. There are invocations, beasts, flashbacks and killings to spare, but no originality. Too dull for camp and too bad to be taken seriously, Fading's only audience will be stoned cultists wondering what kind of campy horror part Brad Dourif's taken on now.
That's Dourif as Mathias, whose warlock-like gaze, sallow skin and unconvincing wig peg him quickly as the bad guy. On the run with Jacob—who introduces him in the middle of the street minutes after the film starts—Sarah tumbles down the rabbit hole into an underworld reminiscent of 2005's underrated Mirrormask. That Neal Gaiman/Dave McKean story had a conceptual verve that filled out its otherwise blurry and piecemeal visuals. In contrast, Metcalf's got nothing as ambitious here: instead, he has Dourif issue the first of many hammy threats about unimaginable power, revenge, an ancient wrong committed against his wife, etc.
Also included are lots and lots of scenes of Jacob slicing and dicing at blurry hordes rushing his way, along with attacks from more specific beasties under Mathias' control: one dread-locked specimen more or less looks like John Travolta in Battlefield Earth, while another white alien-thing is genuinely creepy. But it's no use: reams of computer-generated thunder, lightning and fog add cheese to the already inept fights. The dialogue is similarly unhelpful, with Dourif serving up his finest sinister-wizard lines ("Come, child."), commanding people to unleash the beast and generally acting like the story was constructed from obscure parts of Iron Maiden's mythology. The mother-daughter relationship—bratty girl vs. inept-if-caring parent—is by the book, and the timing of every piece of increasingly-ludicrous information trotted out is predictable. Cries should inspire Birdemic-style laughs, but mostly it's just a puzzlement. Who asked for this? And who could've been happy with the outcome?
Distributor: Underhill Films
Cast: Brad Dourif, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Mackenzie Rosman, Elaine Hendrix, Hallee Hirsh, Jordan Matthews
Director/Screenwriter: Brian A. Metcalf
Producers: Karoline Kautz, Brian A. Metcalf, Thomas Ian Nicholas
Rating: R for bloody horror violence.
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: July 8 NY/LA