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Walled In (2009)
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

review by Ian Sales

When a movie opens by explaining the horror which will drive the plot, it seems clear the director will be looking elsewhere for chills. Sadly, in Walled In, Gilles Paquet-Brenner never quite finds it.

Sam Walczak (Mischa Barton) has just joined the family demolition firm, and her first job is to write an engineering report on a condemned building designed by architect Joseph Malestrazza. This building sits in the middle of a prairie, and was once home to workers at a nearby factory. The factory was closed years before, and only four residents now remain in the building. A montage during the opening credits of Walled In tells us that eight years previously a number of bodies were found immured in cement within the building's structure - one of these was Malestrazza himself. The murderer, a factory worker, vanished and has never been found.

On arrival, Sam meets the building's caretaker, Mary (Deborah Kara Unger), and her teenage son Jimmy (Cameron Bright). She is given a furnished apartment in which to stay - it belonged to one of the victims. Jimmy shows her around the building, including the abandoned and locked-up eighth floor where Malestrazza himself used to live. As Sam surveys the building she realises its blueprints are inaccurate. She also discovers that Malestrazza believed that interring bodies in the walls of buildings imbues their structures with strength and longevity - as in the pyramids of Egypt.

As the film progresses, there's an almost palpable sense of a penny waiting somewhere to be dropped. There must be some secret at the heart of the story, or indeed at the heart of the building. The plot, the slowly building atmosphere, of the film demands as much. But Paquet-Brenner takes his time in revealing it. There is a Ringu-like dream sequence, which promises to move the plot into a higher gear, but it fails to do so. When the core of the story is finally shown, it fails to live up to the director's promises.

As, I think, other reviews have mentioned, the real 'star' of Walled In is Malestrazza's apartment building. It sits beside a river in the middle of a prairie as if it had lowered itself from orbit to land there. It is as sympathetic to its surroundings as a shopping mall. I will confess to being a fan of brutalist architecture, but even in that Malestrazza's building seems to warp the aesthetic. The interior is brutalist, with perhaps a soup´┐Żon of Speer, but the exterior appears more the product of third world economics. However, it is the solitude of the building which impresses more than its design.

Walled In is one of those films which starts well but seems to lose its way around halfway through. Paquet-Brenner certainly succeeds in setting the atmosphere, and for much of its length the film looks very good indeed... Which means that when the story's revelation comes, it is an anticlimax, and that's a shame.

Walled In

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