If the eyes are the windows to the soul, how does one go about making a soulless film called SIGHT?
Jeffrey sees dead people. One day, Jeffrey meets Dana. Dana also sees dead people. Could be a match made in heaven, but since this is a horror film, things aren’t looking too bright for these intrepid souls—and that’s not just the desaturated lighting scheme talking. See, Dana has an ex-boyfriend Paul, and Paul doesn’t like Jeffrey. In fact, when Dana calls Jeffrey for help, and winds up spending the night at his apartment, her Ex comes over with a baseball bat and leaves Jeffrey in a coma for over a year. When Jeffrey finally wakes up, and tries to piece together what happened, no one can find any trace of Dana or Paul.
Someone needs to tell Adam Ahlbrandt to learn how to delegate—for the sake of his career. As the Writer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor and Composer on this film, he’s set himself up as the fall guy for virtually everything that could go wrong with a feature. I mean, no one blames the Producer or Actor when a film looks bad, sounds bad, is cut bad or is chock full of banal dialogue. But they do blame those other guys. To be fair, SIGHT doesn’t have all these problems, but man…the ones it does have are killing it.
Let’s start on the positive points. It’s obvious that Ahlbrandt is a student of J-Horror and in that manner; he populates his film with a collection of really creepy ghosts, most of which have blue skin, wet hair and float a few centimeters above the ground—just high enough that their pointed toes ever so gently scrape the floors of their haunts. It’s textbook stuff, but on a budget, it’s effective and well executed. Plus the make-up is well done and the spooks are generally spooky. The concept of the story is interesting at the outset, but it misses the bus so many times that by the end, the film is concluding a storyline that began at the half-way point and ignoring the one they started at the beginning. Is it confusing? Maybe not as much as your typical J-horror film, but yeah…it’s confusing. Also in typical J-horror fashion, the film is a talk fest, with the final explanation and action arriving just moments before the whole thing is thankfully over. So, if those were the positives—properly aping the pluses and minuses of Asian Horror Films—then you can see where the problems are gonna start to pile up.
To begin with, there is a world of difference between Sound Design and Sound Mixing and in that world Doug Sakmann’s got some explaining to do. Doug used to be the head of production at Troma and over the past few years he’s been churning out some fun, psychotic and pornographic microbudget genre films like PUNK ROCK HOLOCAUST 1 & 2 and RE-PENETRATOR. None of these films sound as bad as SIGHT. Want to know why? Cause Doug Sakmann didn’t do the sound on them! SIGHT suffers from the most extreme jumps in sound quality of any film I can remember seeing at this moment. It goes from a whisper to a scream from a mumble to a screech in jarring blasts that had me repeatedly cranking the volume up and down to keep my eardrums intact. If the sound mix is designed to scare the living shit out of you, congratulations guys, here’s to a job well done.
The other problem comes from the fact that, even though the film tries to conclude its story as a mystery, it never really clarifies why Jeffrey or Dana can see dead people. In THE SIXTH SENSE we didn’t need it explained because the point was who was dead. In STIR OF ECHOES we see dead people so we can solve the murder. SIGHT seems to want to follow that path, but the ending is so left-field it almost makes you forget the connection the two main characters had to begin with. The film’s ultimate breaking point is that other than a show reels for Ahlbrandt’s Cinematography and Editing skills—which the film feels like—SIGHT fails as a cohesive and compelling tale.
It makes no difference if Adam Ahlbrandt can craft a visually interesting film full of Hollywood styled jump scares and flash cuts if he has nothing interesting to say. Of course some loony studio exec just greenlit a sequel to Tarsem’s film THE CELL, which also has no story to go along with it’s visuals, so what do I know! Still, I’ll tell you this much. If Ahlbrandt had spent half as much time scripting this film as he did setting up the lighting and splicing footage, he might have wound up with a much better production.