Nightmare at the End of the Hall

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Airdate: 6-8 p.m. Sunday, June 22 (Lifetime Movie Network).

Add a preposterous premise to a lethargic story and you get Lifetime Movie Network's "Nightmare at the End of the Hall," a movie with a title scarier than anything in it.

Nora Zuckerman gets writing credit, but this telefilm feels like the work of a committee. That's because it combines a little taste of horror with a smorgasbord of themes near and dear to Lifetime's heart: the bonding of women, the villainy of man and the suggestion of something in the great beyond that influences our lives. Each of these elements can be powerful, but here they are thrown into a blender and shredded, with each one diluting the other.

The movie stars Sara Rue as Courtney Snow, a one-hit author invited to be an artist-in-residence at the prep school she graduated from 17 years earlier. Just before graduation, Courtney's best friend, Jane, was found hanged in a storage room at the end of the residence hall. Courtney's best-seller was a fictionalized account of what led up to that apparent suicide.

In what might qualify for a Nobel Prize in insensitivity, Courtney is assigned a room on the very floor where the tragedy occurred and not allowed to move. The storage room has been converted to a residence, and the new student occupying it is Laurel, who looks so much like the late Jane (frequently seen in flashbacks) that Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood can play both parts.

How can this be? Is Courtney being tormented? Is Jane trying to tell her something? Are old wrongs being avenged or forgiven? Fragments of answers are given among blurred hallucinations, frequent flashbacks, tilted camera shots of the door at the end of the hall and other cinematic devices taken from the Horror 101 textbook. Still, it probably wouldn't be fair to call director George Mendeluk unimaginative without first seeing the size of his budget.

Although the story disappoints, Rue doesn't. She is determined to make the role and the movie credible and from time to time actually pulls it off. Thanks to her, and with an assist to journeyman actor Duncan Regehr, who plays the school headmaster, "Nightmare" is a little less of a nightmare and more of a plain old popcorn flick.

Production: Ambitious Entertainment in association with Insight Film Studios. Cast: Sara Rue, Duncan Regehr, Kavan Smith, Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood, Amber Borycki, Sebastian Gacki. Executive Producers: Joseph Lawlor, Stanton W. Kamens, Kirk Shaw. Producers: Lindsay Macadam, Kim Arnott, Jamie Goehring. Director: George Mendeluk. Writer: Nora Zuckerman. Director of Photography: Anthony Metchie. Production Designer: James Hazell. Editor: Christopher A. Smith. Music: Clinton Shorter. Set Decorator: Gail Luning. Casting: Laura Brooke Toplass, Judy Lee, Donald Paul Pemrick, Dean E. Fronk.
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