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Deadly Nightshade

average rating is 2 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Mar 5, 2023

Film Reviews
Deadly Nightshade
Directed by:
Benjamin Rider
Written by:
Tom Baldachin, Christopher Blackburn, Suzie Houlihan
Suzie Houlihan, Christopher Blackburn, Matthew Laird

Brixton-based experimental feature Deadly Nightshade is trippy, unnerving and unique – but this unusually structed and designed psychological horror from director Benjamin Rider misses more of marks than it hits, and fails to engage on an emotional or visceral level.


Victoria (Suzie Houlihan) and Marcus (Matthew Laird) are a couple who take advantage of a long weekend to get away to Brixton. But when they arrive in their flat, bizarre occurrences begin to haunt them, and their reality becomes distorted by a strange TV which appears to be directing events. Victoria tries to keep her grip on the real world as the flat becomes a prison.


Deadly Nightshade’s originality and unconventional storytelling style is admirable and notable, but unfortunately it is not enough to prevent the film from being dragged down by a muddy and inconceivable main plot that ultimately results in the film feeling like a slog to unpick. The filmmakers took the unusual step in allowing the film’s main arc to be largely improvised by the cast on set rather than following a defined script. From the results in this film, this unusual method is likely to remain as unrecommended as it sounds – and viewers will do well not to get lost by the film’s second act. Not every film has to follow conventional storytelling methods, and audiences shouldn’t be expected to be shielded from difficult or complex plots. But Deadly Nightshade fails to find a real hook to engage viewers enough to want to understand it.


This problem is exacerbated by the lack of engaging characters. Neither Victoria nor Marcus make for engaging co-leads, and viewers will find little within these characters to empathise with or root for. The film feels more focused on shooting off unsettling visuals and messing with perceptions of the audience rather than embodying its cast of character with distinct or memorable personalities. Eric Roberts’ sinister Father Walsh leaves an impression, but his lack of interaction with the rest of the cast means this role ultimately feels ancillary.


The film looks slick and dynamic enough, and scenes are framed well to create a disturbing and disconcerting tone. The film is dark – both metaphorically and visually – which helps create a sense of mystery and gloom but becomes somewhat bland and unstimulating by the film’s conclusion.


Deadly Nightshade is an example of a film that is too experimental for its own good, and where its creativity gets points for originality, it fails to conjure enough of a legible story, intrigue or audience engagement to justify its’ extended runtime.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Indie Feature Film
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