Monday, August 23, 2010
I have always thought that the worst mental prison for anyone is to be a victim of paranoia. Paranoid delusions blur the lines between reality and whatever world is being constructed in a paranoid person's mind. This affliction can cause a sense of constant stress, discomfort when interacting within crowds, distrust of everyone including loved ones, and worst of all, mentally detaching yourself from the real world into a realm of cold and darkness.
This brings me to my review of The Darkness Within, an indie flick screener I received last week. I read some spoiler-free reviews of this over the past month, so I was really looking forward to seeing this flick.
Recently engaged couple Chad and Ashley (Jimmy Scanlon and Michelle Romano) move into an apartment complex somewhere in the Northeast. Their new apartment brings its own minor terrors in the form of crammed living space and a large spider infestation, but the main concern Chad has is with his creepy yet hard ass neighbor Mr. Reed (Ken Flott).
After a strange encounter with him during his first night at the apartment, Chad catches Mr. Reed pulling the good ole' peeping tom job on him while he is urinating late at night. Of course, Reed disputes this fact, even when Chad goes to the police for help.
Chad's landlord, or should I say landlord's daughter, Jordan (Stephanie Maheu) doesn't know much about Reed, so there is no assistance that can be offered from the owner of the complex. Without any hard evidence or with no one to turn to for help, Chad must figure out the mystery behind Reed and his peeping ways before he loses grips on his own sanity and shatter his relationship with Ashley.
Meat and Potatoes
First and foremost, this is not a horror film, but more of a thriller-mystery-suspense kinda film. If you are looking for shotgun blasts, zombie rampages and buckets of gore, please look for another film. However, before you decide to pass this one up, let me explain a little about why you should take this one in if you can get your hands on it.
The Darkness Within is a slow-paced film. The first 15 minutes or so needs some adjustment and patience from the audience because soon you learn that you are being paced for a reason. There is not a great deal of action and the film is dialogue heavy. As the film keeps moving along. a sense of dread and despair starts to form for our protagonist. You begin to feel the claustrophobic frustration he experiences within his own living area, which is normally always a person's safe haven in life.
From an antagonist standpoint, Reed brings an unusual sense of fear that you might not be used to experiencing. Reed isn't your average frail, shy and "creepy dude" character that you normally see in films. Instead, he physically looks pretty intimidating and has a brash confidence. If you confront him, he will look you in the eye and subtly warn you that he is no pushover and will not back down.
The Darkness Within a low budget affair which means it is shot on a meager budget and is not going to have the greatest thespians in the world at your disposal. That should never be an excuse for lack of effort or asking for a sympathy card from your audience. You make a film to entertain people and you should always give it your all whether your budget is $1 or $1 billion.
Director Dom Portalla knows what he is working with and delivers his feature with extreme confidence. You can tell it in his cinematography, lighting and editing. In fact, at one point it's like he says, "hell yeah I'm using multiple jump cuts", so the film school rulebook is happily out the window.And the lighting configuration is simply otherworldly.
He also seems to pull the most he can out of his cast. After viewing the special features, it seems as though most of them have been working with him for some time and the fluidity between them is certainly existent. So besides containing a great story, these are other aesthetic reasons why I liked this film.
If I have to throw a negative, I'll throw it at a low velocity. The web of despair for our lead is interrupted by his several visits to Jordan and her on-and-off again roommate upstairs. I understand that their scenes play out important aspects to the plot later on, but it does disrupt the mood and flow of the film. That aside, I did enjoy those Shelby and her roommate's presence and interactions with Chad on their own separate from the context of the film.
Those two characters, especially the Jordan character, need to have her own film. Seriously, while the actress playing Ashley is very attractive, Stephanie Maheu as Jordan had the ETMC babe pulse beating at a serious high. She is definitely a cutie with some attitude and I enjoyed seeing her every on screen appearance. So big thanks to Portalla for supplying the chick factor to Darkness.
Very rarely do I get duped and cannot figure out an ending to a film at about the midway point, but let me tell you that this whole movie is a set of quick jabs and the final act throws a nasty right hook that knocked me to the mat. An intriguing ending that I have to give high praise to the director for pulling off in a believable manner..
If you can understand that you are witnessing a psychological thriller and not a full blown horror film with a major gore factor, then you are in for a helluva ride. Hopefully this one gets a distribution deal soon so that the masses can see it. It is leaps and bounds better than some of the crap that is currently on the video store shelves. And trust me and my "Amateur Hour" installments when I say I know so.