You know how sometimes you just want to be alone? Like after your looney ex-boyfriend accuses you of cheating, tries to drown you in the tub, causes you to have a miscarriage and a total mental meltdown, and then you have to hurry up and finish your screenplay because you’ve got a deadline? That’s a really good time to hole up in a rambling house in the boonies with no access to transportation and nothing but your thoughts and a nice bottle of anti-psychotic medication to keep you company. Awesome idea. And because this is such an awesome idea, it’s exactly what Alice Evans (Brittany Murphy) does to meet her Deadline.
For some reason Alice’s nice friend Rebecca (Tammy Blanchard) does not think this is an awesome idea, but she drives Alice to the country and leaves with the car just the same. She tells Alice that she ought to write about her own life, but Alice has “no interest in writing a horror movie.” In fact, she doesn’t need to write a horror movie, because something pret-ty creepy is going on in that house…like unexplained noises, and trails of wet footprints. Plus whoever lived there before her was really into walking around with a handheld video camera and filming everything, just like she is, and it seems like they were expecting a baby too. Isn’t that weird?
But Alice doesn’t get too worked up about any of this. She hears a banging door and doesn’t seem worried at all. She sees the footprints and it’s nothing to her. The only time she does jump is when her phone rings, and that’s only because it’s this clunky thing that looks like an ordinary cordless phone but seems to be a cell, and its ringer is set so high that it would scare the life out of anyone. You know how that goes – you’ve got to turn the ringer way, way up on the phone you keep in your hand, or you could miss out on Rebecca calling to tell you that your looney boyfriend is out of jail.
The boyfriend news is cause for alarm, but for the most part, Alice just sits around watching videos that the last couple left behind, which is strange, because she really ought to buckle down and do some writing. Instead she slowly puts the pieces together and realizes that the husband (Mark Blucas) accused his wife (Thora Birch) of cheating on him, then drowned her in the tub while she was pregnant! OMG, that’s exactly what happened to Alice!!! Maybe she can reach out and help Lucy’s ghost. Maybe that’s why she’s been hearing all those noises and seeing weird things. Hopefully Lucy’s husband isn’t still around to stop her. And hopefully Alice’s boyfriend won’t try to get her. And most of all I hope that Alice isn’t completely out of her tree, because that would be kind of a lame and disappointing way to end a halfway watchable movie. Deadline was obviously never going to break box office records or win any awards, but it’s certainly not unwatchable, and when it’s bad, it’s so bad it’s good. It’s just that after bearing with it for 89 minutes, you don’t want to find out that the joke’s on you. That’s exactly what the twist ending feels like, and does nothing to help a movie of already dubious quality.