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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Scrubbing won't rid you of this stain.

Author: lost-in-limbo from the Mad Hatter's tea party.
24 September 2008

I wasn't expecting much from this Australian made-for-TV enterprise, but I came away pleasantly surprised by this effectively low-key and stylishly tailored haunted house tale. Sure the horror elements abound (stain on the wall, nightmares and husband being possessed) kind of rings true to 'The Amityville Horror' yarn, however the spotlight here is on the yuppie characters and the dramatised emotional burden that comes from the stress of their high demand jobs, the knowledge of not being able to have a child and the investment (money and renovation) that's simply gone into their new home. It's a draining experience that could break them and test their commitments and actual goals for each other. A fear of something you just can't control and the need of total assurance in everyday life go a long way in shaping someone. Impeccably noteworthy lead performances by Rebecca Gibney and John Adam go on to sell the situation. While the local supporting cast lend well to proceedings.

Peter and Julie buy a rundown house in the rocks area (harbour view) of Sydney with the idea of building it from scratch again. Even though it means delving in deep, they still want this house. But not too long, something evil has awoken from the past and begins to stew up a rip between Peter and Julie. Peter is not quite the same man, and Julie believes it has something to do with the house.

Even though it's systematic and highly unoriginal, it's still very well-made, symbolically-penned by Tony Morphett and ably acted. The air-tight dialogues are well-served and direct with their ambitious themes. Intensity and suspense lingers from the fears and frustrations fuelling the character's once stable consolidation than that of the actual spirit. It's more the tool for their spiralling destruction and it's captured in an unsettling manner due the humane illustrations. Not to push aside the half-cooked horror staples (although there's different types of horrors in reality) and images, but the sinister atmosphere within just simmers and clouds the air. After the foreboding opening (a flash of our period killer brutally slashing a victim) with some junky filming techniques, it moves to modern times and stays with the couple. Glimpses of the spirit occasionally appear in mirrors and in the wall, but the creepier moments centre around Peter's obsessive transformation. Within certain sub-plot details there are incoherent factors (mainly about our dear spirit), but nothing that got me too bothered due to the angle they went with here.

The production has a slickly scope-like (more visually adapt compared to most bland TV work) look and Mark Wareham's swirling camera was always on the spot. The Sydney backdrop has a truly engaging scenic view, while the exterior of the house is detailed and well-used. Catherine Millar's stable direction lets the story tick along at a reasonable pace and Chris Neal's angelically stirring musical score is a haunting inclusion.

Those looking for thrills and special effects look elsewhere, as the focus are drawn up on the looming fate of the characters' harrowing plight. Not flawless, but a solid offering nonetheless.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The Amityville Horror meets House Hunters/This Old House

Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City
31 March 2005

After a brief prologue showing a masked man stalking and then slashing the throat of an older gentleman on a deserted, urban, turn of the century Australian street, we meet Julie (Rebecca Gibney) and Peter (John Adam) as they go out house hunting. They manage to get a loan for a fixer-upper on a posh Sydney street, but it turns out that physical disrepair is not the only problem with their new home. It just may be haunted.

13 Gantry Row combines a memorable if somewhat clichéd story with good to average direction by Catherine Millar into a slightly above average shocker.

The biggest flaws seem partially due to budget, but not wholly excusable to that hurdle. A crucial problem occurs at the beginning of the film. The opening "thriller scene" features some wonky editing. Freeze frames and series of stills are used to cover up the fact that there's not much action. Suspense should be created from staging, not fancy "fix it in the mix" techniques. There is great atmosphere in the scene from the location, the lighting, the fog and such, but the camera should be slowly following the killer and the victim, cutting back and forth from one to the other as we track down the street, showing their increasing proximity. The tracking and the cuts need to be slow. The attack needed to be longer, clearer and better blocked. As it stands, the scene has a strong "made for television" feel, and a low budget one at that.

After this scene we move to the present and the flow of the film greatly improves. The story has a lot of similarities to The Amityville Horror (1979), though the budget forces a much subtler approach. Millar and scriptwriter Tony Morphett effectively create a lot of slyly creepy scenarios, often dramatic in nature instead of special effects-oriented, such as the mysterious man who arrives to take away the old slabs of iron, which had been bizarrely affixed to an interior wall.

For some horror fans, the first section of the film might be a little heavy on realist drama. At least the first half hour of the film is primarily about Julie and Peter trying to arrange financing for the house and then trying to settle in. But Morphett writes fine, intelligent dialogue. The material is done well enough that it's often as suspenseful as the more traditional thriller aspects that arise later--especially if you've gone through similar travails while trying to buy your own house.

Once they get settled and things begin to get weirder, even though the special effects often leave much to be desired, the ideas are good. The performances help create tension. There isn't an abundance of death and destruction in the film--there's more of an abundance of home repair nightmares. But neither menace is really the point.

The point is human relationships. There are a number of character arcs that are very interesting. The house exists more as a metaphor and a catalyst for stress in a romantic relationship that can make it go sour and possibly destroy it. That it's in a posh neighborhood, and that the relationship is between two successful yuppies, shows that these problems do not only afflict those who can place blame with some external woe, such as money or health problems. Peter's character evolves from a striving corporate employee with "normal" work-based friendships to someone with more desperation as he becomes subversive, scheming to attain something more liberating and meaningful. At the same time, we learn just how shallow those professional friendships can be. Julie goes through an almost literal nervous breakdown, but finally finds liberation when she liberates herself from her failing romantic relationship.

Although 13 Gantry Row never quite transcends its made-for-television clunkiness, as a TV movie, this is a pretty good one, with admirable ambitions. Anyone fond of haunted house films, psycho films or horror/thrillers with a bit more metaphorical depth should find plenty to enjoy. It certainly isn't worth spending $30 for a DVD (that was the price my local PBS station was asking for a copy of the film after they showed it (factoring in shipping and handling)), but it's worth a rental, and it's definitely worth watching for free.

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Renovate at your own risk!

Author: uds3 from Longmont, Colorado
9 July 2005

Just two comments....SEVEN years apart? Hardly evidence of the film's relentless pulling-power! As has been mentioned, the low-budget telemovie status of 13 GANTRY ROW is a mitigating factor in its limited appeal. Having said that however the thing is not without merit - either as entertainment or as a fright outing per se.

True, the plot at its most basic is a re-working of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR - only without much horror. More a case of intrigue! Gibney might have made a more worthwhile impression if she had played Halifax -investigating a couple of seemingly unconnected murders with the "house" as the main suspect. The script is better than average and the production overall of a high standard. It just fails to engage the viewer particularly at key moments.

Having picked the DVD up for a mere $3.95 last week at my regular video store, I cannot begrudge the expenditure. $10.95 would be an acceptable price for the film. Just don't expect fireworks!

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Thought-provoking and sinister film

Author: Russ1681 from Adelaide
17 November 1998

Another Aussie masterpiece, this delves into the world of the unknown and the supernatural, and it does very well. It doesn't resort to the big special effects overkill like American flicks, it focuses more on emotional impact. A relatively simple plot that Rebecca Gibney & Co. bring to life. It follows the story of a couple who buy an old house that was supposedly home to a very old woman who never went outside, and whose husband disappeared in mysterious circumstances a century ago. Strange things begin to happen in the house, and John Adam begins to turn into the man who disappeared, who was actually a mass murderer. Highly recommended. 8/10

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

As feeble as it gets

Author: Tony from Sydney
11 February 2007

The most engaging aspect of this show is that it's filmed around Pyrmont (despite the fact that the male leads says it's in the Rocks), and you see some beautiful samples of Sydney sandstone that haven't been hidden by the monstrosities of the casino and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (greedy vandals).

The plot and the script, however, are utter garbage. For most of the film I was asking myself whether they REALLY said what I just heard. Didn't anybody wonder about the credibility when they were learning their lines? Did they have rehearsals? Did anyone think about how plausible the film might look?

The actors proved their credentials. Rebecca Gibney has nice blond hair and John Adam has a chunky torso.

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