Sam (Mischa Barton) has a man's name and a man's job — she's a demolition engineer, and it's her job to figure out how best to bring down the thought-to-be indestructible construction of a celebrated and mysterious late architect, known as Walczak.
Once on the lonely site, Sam soon learns the secret to the 8-story builder's boo-prints: ghosts. Walczak had the whacky notion that entombing live people inside the walls of his structures would imbue them — the buildings, not the people — with immortality. As his last and best creation, this dwelling of doom defies gravity and tries to send Sam straight to her grave!
Sounds scary — like Dario Argento's Witch Trilogy mixed with a touch of Edgar Allen Poe's "Telltale Heart". Unfortunately, Walled In is nothing but a façade. It's not altogether bad. The cursed complex angle has got potential, and that makes the flick's overall inertia that much more lamentable.
The acting is quite captivating (Barton's best, as she carries the film; Cameron Bright, Noab Jenkins and Deborah Kara Unger are good; and the few bit players are really pithy) and the sets and production design are amazing. The building is uber-cool as it's riddled with hidden passageways, labyrinths, doorways that lead to bricks and mortar, and has windows you definitely don't want to open. The cinematography is pretty, but not very innovative.
Walled In's weakest link is its foundation: unfortunately, writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner plays it far too safe. Once in while he tosses out some Roeg-worthy suspense, creepy Polanski'esque voyeurism, and a moment or two of Cocteau-like surrealism… but he's a tease. He instead decides to go the rote route and as a result the movie crumbles about halfway through.
Walled In could have been a really great, quirky mystery had the filmmakers decided to embrace the perv factor, make the most of the mazes, and taken Sam's fear of the dark to a dreamlike extreme — but instead, we've got a lackluster thriller that could easily be repurposed into an episode of TV's "Criminal Minds".
The extras on the DVD touch on the fact that the movie is based on Serge Broselot's bestselling French novel "Les Emmeures," but they do not treat us to a page-to-screen comparison. I would have liked to've known a little bit more about the source material (I could read it, but the movie quelled my curiosity). In the interviews everyone talks a good game (Paquet-Brenner certainly sounds like he knows how to make an exciting movie), but in the end the featurette is nothing but a self-congratulatory back-pat.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson