I signed up for a ghost story and got more a psychological thriller. Not that I’m complaining too much, as there was more than enough horror elements to still qualify as horror. Adaline has a good sense of dread that permeates the film, though it does get uneven and unfocused at times. Adaline’s main issue is it tries to many things at once, is a ghost story, a murder mystery and has a large dose of thriller. But never manages to nail down any one aspect enough to stay interesting and unfortunately spends a sizable portion of its time just meandering, never really advancing the story.
Adaline opens with a woman tied to an inverted pentagram being sacrificed by a cloaked figure. The film then switches gears to follow floundering artist Daniela (Jill Evyn), who has recently gotten out of a longer term relationship that ended poorly and lives with her close friend Megan (Emily Claeys). Things are going rough for her with her saving have run out and unable to find a studio to showcase her art, when she opens a letter informing her that she has just inherited a house in the small town of San Andreas along with a small sum of money from an aunt she never knew she had. Hoping that the change of scenery will be just the thing she needs, she packs up and moves there. After arriving she makes friends with a local man, Marvin (Jeremy Walker) who’s slightly mentally disabled. They become friends forming a big sister, little brother relationship. Besides Marvin, Daniela also meets her hunky neighbor John (Lane Townsend), who she also forms a relationship. Though this one far more romantic and intimate. While this is happening, Daniela starts receiving visions from a long dead retaliative Adaline. Which lead her to Adaline’s diary, which further exacerbate the visions along with her lifelong nightmares. Which worsens after someone breaks into her house, to draw an inverted pentagram in blood. Scared by the events unfolding in her home, she turns to Megan. Who directs her to Winter (Anne Hallinan) a psychic. Though Winter isn’t much help, but neither is Daniela’s therapist Dr. Gibson (C.S. Boris). But with conditions around her home, worsening and her relationship with John heating up, can she uncover Adaline’s secrets in time to save her own life?
My main issue with Adaline is how off-balance it is. It will go from having a really good moment of tension or shots of Daniela being followed or watched by Adaline, to fifteen minutes of her just putting around. Which wouldn’t be so bad if there was a pay off in some way. Which there really isn’t. The film builds to a conclusion that any seasoned horror fan will see coming, with only a few red herrings that will leave you scratching your head.
One of these red herrings is another big issue for me. Though not as bad as the off-balance tone, so spoiler. Dr. Gibson’s character feels completely out-of-place in this film. The perverted creepy therapist role is a common character, but here it’s completely miss used. He’s made the red herring and it wouldn’t be so bad if he had a purpose other than sucking up screen time. He’s shown to be drawing pictures of Daniela tied up with the final one of her tied to the inverted pentagram we see the woman killed on in the beginning of the film and the words happy death written along the bottom. Then, nothing. He’s just gone from the film and in no way affects the outcome. It would make sense if he was one of the killers or was in some way involved. But no, nothing. He’s just a big waste of screen time.
The best parts is the horror aspects. When the film decides to try and go for the dread. Adaline can really hit the mark. But it’s done so infrequently that it gets incredibly frustrating as you find yourself waiting and waiting for the film to just move along. Though the spacing of these parts are just close enough to keep the film watchable.
The last thing I want to talk about is the character of Marvin. Who felt out-of-place as well and honestly, I didn’t think was acted the best. That said, he was by far the most likable character and for a number of good reasons. Making the character mental slow was a nice touch and gives the character a sweetness the film benefits from. I just wish he had been better written and included more heavily. This could have been easily done cutting out Winter and Dr. Gibson, who are throw away characters at best.
Final thoughts, meh. Adaline isn’t the worst film I’ve seen. But could have benefited from some minor alterations. The acting while cheesy at times and straight poor at others still manages to hold together enough to deliver an entertaining enough ghost story. Most of Adaline’s issues have to deal with the poor pacing and off-balance tone. Well that and the predictable ending. 5/10