A Diary Full of EVIL Secrets. “The Darkness” reviewed! (Reel2Reel / Digital Screener)

David inherits his ailing grandmother’s countryside cottage and holidays with his novelist girlfriend, Lisa, who seeks a little refuge to inspire her next big bestseller.  As soon as they arrive and Lisa discovers an old storage chest in the attic, Lisa’s is pulled by a call of a supernatural entity that lures her outside to an unmarked grave, an ominous cave suspected with evil fairies, and a diary that tells the horrifying accounts of a murdered woman.  Their time at the cottage take a toll on Lisa who’s strange behavior places concern on David.  An ostracized priest forewarns possession, death, and the stakes if Lisa remains in the area that’s haunted with witches, ghosts, changelings, and betrayers. 

Originally titled “Dorcha,” an Irish term for dark, and then rebranded as “The Darkness” for the remainder of the English speaking residents of the world, the 2021 released multifaced specter and fairy Irish folklore spectacle is the directorial debut of Tharun Mohan, a current producer for the 2021 United Kingdom vampire versus human boiling point coexistence television series, “Age of the Living Dead,” co-starring our good genre loving friend and actor, Bill Oberst Jr.  While Bill Oberst Jr. is not a part of “The Darkness” (my apologies if I gave a sense of false hope), Mohan, from off the pages of his screenplay, aspires to illuminate Irish mythology as an alluring gothic horror mixture of mystery with fear sans the more popular little green men defending pots of gold.  The self-produced film under the Tharun Productions is the banner’s first feature with Aoun Khan, Neenu Mathai, Anoop Pillai, and Monique R. White serving as executive producers.

While we don’t get Bill Oberst Jr. (still hurts), we do get someone just as good with “The House of Bly Manor’s” Amelia Eve!  The UK actress headlines “The Darkness” in the role of Lisa, the struggling novelist looking for a slice of inspiration but instead receives the whole pie of possession.  Eve lives it up as an entity puppeteering her youthful outer shell in the filth and muck, stuffing her face with all the food in the cottage, and, at times, imitating an urbanity style of death.  Meanwhile, her boyfriend David (Cyril Blake) would have probably unintentionally babe’d her to death if she wasn’t already being haunted by a vindictive Victorian spirit.  “The Darkness” is Blake’s introductory role into feature films and the 36 year old, South Yorkshire actor can’t quite capture sincerity when it comes to his girlfriend’s unusual behavior.  David also just wanders to-and-fro around town in an aloof manner for more than just one reason until things become dire with Lisa and  then is that only when he’s starts to get really involved and attempt to fix whatever’s afflicting  Lisa, even if he has to entertain an informed, but shunned, eccentric priest (John Sudgen) with tea and biscuits in order to get just what the hell is going on.  A number of side characters pop up with an inclining of importance, such as the nosy waitress (Marian Elizabeth), a powerful witch (Gillian Kirkpatrick), and a determined historian (Mary Drake), but fall short of any real significance by fluttering in with just enough motivational tidbits and then flutter out of the scene and let the principle characters work out the rest.  “The Darkness” is a dual timeline narrative with the current story focusing on Lisa’s bubbling black enchantment slowly taking over her body with the backbone base layer account of events providing a tell-all mystery driving Lisa mad with a menacing spirit.  Occurring around a few decades ago before Lisa and David arrive, Niav O’Connor (Katherine Harthshorne) mysteriously disappears from her husband Bryan (Adam Bond), but much of this is revealed through the Lisa’s obsessive reading of Niav’s diary which begs the question, how did Niav write her demise in the diary pages if she was already dead?

And that last sentiment ultimately describes Mohan’s film, as an unfocused and trite expression of amateur storytelling.  There’s difficulty in trying to nail down, or taking a stab at anything as the saying goes, in the “The Darkness’” many moving parts and many fiends in the off shoots Mohan tries to tie in from all various directions.  Even in the film’s final scenes, Mohan had to pen in one more twist that corrodes even further the integrity of a much desired narrative about Irish mythologies and the malevolencies that spur them. Myths are the heart of “The Darkness,” more specifically with the changelings who are fairies that replace real people, and Niav and Bryan O’Connor’s ghastly tale echoes the non-fictional account of Bridget Cleary, an Irish wife murdered by her husband under the suspicion that his wife was a changeling. Connections made between the past and present are roughly tied together at best with only Niav’s unearthed and charmed diary serving as a conduit to possess Lisa’s curious id. The pursuit of revenge for her untimely demise falls upon… well, that part of the story is undoubtedly vague as Niav seems to be resurrecting from the grave, so to speak, to reveal dubious secrets held by relatives from the lineage of her husband Bryan and cling her spiteful lifeforce to that bloodline and haunt O’Connor descendants like a severe post traumatic stress disorder; yet the vapid ending doesn’t justify the means, falling short the buildup of the hallmarks of folklore horror in witches, changelings, fairies, dark arts priests, and ghosts with anything but spectacular.

No cheap thrills, no gore, no nudity. “The Darkness” relies heavily on the suspense of the gothic tale itself to drawn in and spook audiences as the Mohan film creeps onto digital streaming services and video on demand this month, May 3rd, from the fresh-faced independent UK distribution label, Reel2Reel. The production value on “The Darkness” catches the passing aesthetically expensive eye while still being an economically financed and that’s a big credit to director of photography, Ariel Artur, getting the artistic shots that displays time and patience in getting the minor key angles right to at least extract a gripping moment of apprehension, resembling 60’s and 70’s European horror to likes of Hammer Horror or Amicus in appearance alone. As far as bonus scenes during or after the credits, there are none. As a starting line feature, “The Darkness” is not terrible. Let’s be clear on this as Tharun Mohan understand the fundamentals of filmmaking with sound positioning of characters in scenes, a superb, expensive look on a value size budget, and the Amalie Eve’s crazed performance is a thrill in itself, but envisioning the structure still remains behind the blinders, leaving “the Darkness” just an aimless shot in the dark.

Evil Wants To Profit From Your Death! “Red Room” review!


When Kyra awakes inside an unadorned room of the second floor of an isolated farm house, the woman, who last remembers herself walking to her car from an afterhours night club, finds her wrists and ankles bound together alongside two other women. The women, Lilly and Allison, have been locked inside the room for days, kidnapped the same way, and treated with an inhumane care that more-or-less maintains their physical beauty. Uncertainty questions their fates, but one thing is for sure, when their captors come to remove you from the others, like selected head amongst the cattle, and relocate you to the red room, that’s when the screaming starts and you’re never heard from again. Between the three captives, anger and fear struggle for common ground on a plan of desperate escape and with the iron grip of their abductors honed into their every move, Kyra’s determination to escape breeds sturdier when the possibility of death is more than likely imminent, but before their inevitable snuff, the red room holds sickening world-wide pleasures that anticipates their particular company.

Poised to be callously unsettling and keen to rip apart compassionate souls, “Red Room” hails from Ireland as a ghastly and shocking exploitation thriller from writer-director Stephen Gaffney. A production of Gaffney’s Deep Web Films and co-written with Erica Keegan, “Red Room” slides ever so covertly into the internet’s interlining of unspoken grisliness that exploits people for the darker desires of other people and Gaffney runs through the typical rational of the irrational abductions, such as sex trafficking, and though that’s certainly taboo enough to quench viewers with a powerful story in itself, the director taps a sex and death geyser a few filmmakers have reaped, perhaps more so retrospectively, the machiavellian benefits in finding a home in a rather thin genre with films that are akin to the plot, including works of malevolent personal satisfaction as such as in Dusty Nelson’s “Effects” or the investigated side that encompasses the snuff world in Joel Schumacher’s “8mm” starring Nicholas Cage.

The 2017 film thrills to inflict tortuous anticipation for what lies ahead of the tethered three women. Amy Kelly’s Kyra is the only colleen to be shown physically abducted and while Kelly maintains a fine performance as the strong female protagonist with no-choice-but-to-escape attitude, Kyra’s character arc has a confounding impact where Gaffney involves non-linear scenes into the story, providing the events leading up to her abduction and also other more linear scenes with her mother on the phone with the police irate with her disappearance, but none of those scenes had significant impact to Kyra’s predicament or motivation and felt out of place. Kyra doesn’t necessarily talk about her child much either, which is always a powerful motivator for anyone with a need to live. Instead of carrying on with Kyra’s needless background, Richard, played by John D’Alessandro, could have benefited from the excess framework capacity of how he became groomed by his stern father, a role fit for a cruel king by “Game of Thrones'” Brian Fortune, and how his calm, sensible, and business casual character admixed himself with various complex villainy, roles donned by JP Albuquerque and Rodrigo Ternevoy, and how they became a triad of high end brunette liquidators of sorts. The other two women with Kyra, Alison (Saoirse Doyle) and Lilly (Sohaila Lindheim) spread the reactionary affects in a petrified Alison and a realist in Lilly when contrasted to Kyra’s defiance, but Alison carries the crux of the story, the reason why there is a story, that falls right smack dab in the red room and, frankly, she becomes the star of the gritty show. “Red Room’s” tops out the cast with another “Game of Thrones'” star Eddie Jackson and Fiona Twamley Hewitt.

“Red Room” has been compared to “Hostel” with a plot that does walk a familiar path of a pay-to-die morbidity and that comparison is a fair assessment with the ancillary connotation that “Red Room” could be seen as an extension or a byproduct of Eli Roth’s sadist of a film. However, a microscopic obstacle provides just enough to dispute that claim, to whither back a formidable opponent in the game of who has the most visceral body of work, and that evidence lies in Gaffney’s creative style. The filmmaker, for lack of a better term, pulls punches, not delivering the full on aggression required to provoke and stimulate the masses. The scenes of gore are ghastly to a point and that’s not necessarily the issue that’s more so with the unravelling of their inhuman nature that doesn’t genuinely denote a persuasive emanation of their victims damnation. We see a little of spark with JP Alburquerque’s Andras who is clearly insane with an limitless immoral conscious whereas the others teeter about more of the business margins or struggle with a tough guy image.

From Stephan Gaffney’s Deep Wed Films in association with Sicario Pictures enters “Red Room” onto DVD home video from Breaking Glass Pictures. Presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, on a one-sided, doubled layered DVD9, the Canon C300 Mark II digitally shot feature cleanly and sharply provides quality throughout that falters occasionally with some choppy video speed controlling in the more extreme scenes. Color palette isn’t lush with brilliant hues, but with the darker tone of the film, the expectation of vividness lies more so with graphic content and adds to the value. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is meaty and balanced, strong enough to even tune uneducated ears to the Irish accents. The dialogue is rightfully upfront with fine range and depth with no issues on mic placements. Bonus features include a short and sweet radio interview with director Stephen Gaffney, cast interviews, test screen reaction with the finale climax, a director’s audio commentary, a single deleted scene, and a concept promo. Ireland makes a play for extreme horror with Stephen Gaffney’s “Red Room,” a twisted and a humanly fathomable thriller with a cold-hearted gape at the worst of human nature that lingers into the vast virtual and essential disconnect amongst online gawkers that will never face the exploitive repercussions of what wets their appetites as they sit behind computer screens.

“Red Room” DVD available at Amazon!

Holy Evil Cow! Dead Meat review!

deadmeat
An Ireland countryside becomes the victim of a mutated strain of Mad Cow disease that is infectious and sends the victims into a blood thirsty, violence fit of rage. A small band of survivors race across the land looking for a safe haven, but with nearly everyone infected, a safe place is hard to find.
deadmeat2
You just don’t see too many Irish horror movies and you probably will see not another one ever again. Dead Meat has to be the worst and the best Irish zombie film of the last three decades, but I’m not totally knocking Dead Meat because there are positives about the Conor McMahon written and directed film that can’t go ignored. First, practical effects, like the ones used in Peter Jackson Dead Alive, are always the best way to go because a shovel through someone’s chest or a vacuum sucking out an eye ball just doesn’t seem that convincing to me. If I want to want animated television, I’ll watch cartoons on Saturday morning. Real effects stem from the talents of the special effects crew consisting of Roy Gleasure, Brendan Fahy, and Jonathan Graham. Graham has had his hands in other major, more recent films such as Pacific Rim, Resident Evil: Retribution, and the remake of RoboCop as a mold maker.

The Fangoria Gorezone, one of the very few ever endorsed by Fangoria back in the day, film however doesn’t have a great story in which the survivors just wonder through the countryside looking for a supposedly safe castle to take shelter. The group whittles down through each passing “zombie” horde and bash and thrash through the madness. Dead Meat might not have suffered too much if one could comprehend thick Irish accents. The accents were so thick I couldn’t make out sentences. This should serious flaw the film for other viewers, but following the story was a challenge and very taxing on the ears and mind.
deadmeat3
In all, there lies good and there lies mediocracy with Dead Meat. The obvious stand out points of the film are that the film is an Irish horror film and uses practical and great effects. The downside is the lack of story and a good solid core to give our characters, even our hero and heroine, some depth. Frankly, the characters could have all bit the dust without a tear shed on my part. Dead Meat is not a new film and has been out for over a decade, but certainly worth a gander and wouldn’t hurt to be Irish to get some kind of understanding out of it all.