“Dead in 3 Days” – A.J. Hakari

Dead in 3 Days goes to show viewers how much horror works as a cultural equalizer. There’s something of a pleasure in seeing how our neighboring nations seem to share similar ideas about what scares the wits out of us citizens. Unfortunately, that means having to see the same damn movie no matter where you trot across the globe, resulting in a win-lose situation. I’ll give this Austrian import credit for at least trying to mix things up a little bit, but in the end, the effort it puts forth is anything but Herculean.

For some, graduating from high school is a sacred rite of passage. For Nina (Sabrina Reiter) and her friends, it means never having to read another textbook as long as they live. These pals are freed from a life of academia after passing their final exams, but as it turns out, their celebration is short-lived. Nina and company each receive a cryptic text message warning that they’ll all — you guessed it — be dead in three days’ time. The kids brush it off as a nasty prank, until one of them goes missing and is later found drowned. With the police unable to help out, it’s up to Nina and her surviving comrades to uncover who’s trying to pick them off. Could the culprit be a creepy classmate, or could the answer have something to do with a dark incident from their past?

You know the only thing I hate more than a movie that doesn’t even try to develop an interesting concept? One that does but proceeds to do jack squat with it. Such is the case with Dead in 3 Days, a film that looked as if it could’ve given garden-variety slashers a run for their money. The premise is closer to Agatha Christie than John Carpenter, what with an unknown assailant disposing of the teens in proper, Ten Little Indians-style fashion. It’s a fantastic hook that might’ve led to a classy thriller with 21st century sensibilities — that is, if the filmmakers cared the slightest about its presentation. Dead in 3 Days is standard slasher fare, worsened by how it easily could’ve been something pretty cool. The whole “dead in three days” angle is a start, but even that’s forgotten the minute it’s introduced. Only one day passes before Nina’s friends start dropping like flies, which makes you wonder what the point was to begin with.

But aside from this, Dead in 3 Days is still a pretty lousy mystery. Actually, I hesitate to even call it a mystery, since it withholds any and all clues until the movie’s almost over. The flick keeps you in the dark until about the last twenty minutes, unmasks the killer in one fell swoop, and pretends to pull a fast one on you. It’s a cheap tactic used as recently as My Bloody Valentine 3-D, and it’s as infuriating as the umpteen other times it’s been employed. Also, Nina isn’t so much positioned as the prerequisite Final Girl as she sort of stumbles into the gig. The story keeps hopping from character to character until about halfway through, when it just settles on the least one-dimensional of the survivors. Still, to give the movie credit, the performances are pretty tolerable, even though your standard slasher archetypes are at play. Plus, the bloodshed is pretty well-balanced, plenty gory but spaced out enough not to be completely gratuitous.

Dead in 3 Days isn’t that much worse than the bajillion other nondescript slashers that grace video store shelves year after year. It hurts a little bit more just because it had the chance to stand out from the rest of the pack, only it blew it and blew it hard. Dead in 3 Days isn’t about to set any world records in suckiness, but despite a teensy handful of grisly charms, it’s one of the dullest blades in the horror drawer.

Rating: ★½☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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