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Saturday, 7 May 2016

Dark (2015)

DARK (2015)
Genre: Thriller
Length: 93 min
Director: Nick Basile
Writer: Elias
Executive Producer: Joe Dante
Starring: Whitney Able (Monsters), Alexandra Breckenridge (The Walking Dead), Brendan Sexton III (Boys Don't Cry) and Michael Eklund (The Call)
with Redman (Seed of Chucky)

A few months ago there was a power cut in our part of the North East of Scotland after some of the worst snow storms here in many a year. Up until that point the day had been rather mundane, I was away at my day job, it was the middle of the week so therefore I was fast losing the will to live. It was approaching 4pm when the power went off in our office. The lights went out, the computers went silent and perhaps the most frightening aspect of all, the coffee machine stopped working. I won't say that there was panic, but the thought of no coffee was enough to send some of us into an ever-increasing feeling of apprehension. 

It became clear within the hour from a radio announcement that this was going to be one of those rare extended power outages, so the powers that be decided to let us go home to the relative safety and comfort of our homes...... well at least that was the intention because when I eventually reached my house about an hour later, well lets just say that I now know my place in the hierarchy of survival in my family. The thing is, my family (wife, son, daughter, 2 dogs and 2 cats) had heard the news that the power could well be out for a couple of days, such was the damage that the weather had wreaked on the local infrastructure.

They had quickly come to the communal decision between them that the well stocked food in the refrigerator may well be wasted as it quickly defrosted, something had to be done. Did they think of putting the food safely locked up outside the house (remember it was a snow storm) - nope. Did they think of connecting the refrigerator power supply to a spare battery that was there doing nothing in the garage? - nope. Instead they decided that the only thing to do was to eat all the food that was in there, all 5 days worth of it........ well at least it wouldn't go to waste.

By the time I reached home there was barely any food left. I entered the kitchen to see my dogs eating my supply of Italian meat section - all that was left for me was a couple of plain biscuits.......bastards.

Well OK, on the scale of things my losing my supply of fine Italian meats in a blackout may not be the theme for a great movie, however the notion of what the mind of a human being is capable of experiencing in such circumstances is well wroth exploring. And this is exactly what this remarkable film DARK does.

"Set in NYC during the blackout of 2003, Kate, a struggling 30-something model with a troubled past, has just moved into her girlfriend Leah's Brooklyn loft, but already doubts about their relationship has begun to loom. When Leah leaves for the weekend, Kate unexpectedly finds herself alone in the apartment in the midst of the worst blackout in North American history. 

As darkness falls over the city, Kate's  paranoia grows and she begins to believe someone in the building is stalking her. With no one to help her and escape out of reach, Kate is forced to confront her deepest fears as she fights to survive through the night."

The backdrop of DARK is based upon the actual blackout back in 2003 which affected huge swathes of the Northeastern and Midwestern US, together with some southern Canadian provinces. The power cut lasted for a few hours for a lucky few, others were not quite so lucky with some areas being without power for between two days and up to a week for some of the more remote parts. It was regarded at the time to be the world's second largest blackout which overall effected over 10 million Canadians and up to 45 million people in the affect U.S states. So alright, maybe my tale of blackout isn't quite as extreme as that one, but it's all relative.

When I received the request a couple of weeks ago to have a sneak peek at an online screener for this film two things immediately persuaded me to do so. Firstly the story was written by a past acquaintance of 5D, Elias, who was responsible for the hugely enjoyable GUT, a film that didn't hold back on it's psychological and violent punches. If you want to see what I mean then you can read the article RIGHT HERE.

The second persuading element was the connection to DARK with the role of executive producer being taken up by non-other than cinematic legend, Joe Dante. Yes that's right, only Joe bloody Dante! He of Gremlins, The Howling, Piranha and Innerspace to name but a very few. If that's not enough to sell anyone into seeing a film, well I really don't know what is.

This is a film that in some ways took me by surprise, both in it's study of the psychological complexities that can impact on an individual who is already in the throes of mental fragility, but also in the willingness to be disciplined in taking its time to tell a story that is sometimes deceptive in its portrayal of acute emotion. I must admit that the opening scene between Kate (Whitney Abel) and Leah (Alexandra Breckenridge.... yes, she from The Walking Dead) is quite simply electrifying - just don't watch it, ahem, with any children!

However, the relationship between the two women is clearly already in troubled waters, the strain seemingly caused by the long-standing psychological issues which are tormenting Kate. These issues are currently being amplified by the problems between the two women, with the very issues plaguing Kate about to significantly explode when the blackout hits and she finds herself alone in a darkened city to accompany her darkened mind.

This leads us to one of the main strengths of DARK, because the intention of writer Elias and director Nick Basile seems quite clear, to show how the blackout is responsible for the speedy psychological disintegration of a individual, and so acting as a metaphor for how the social disintegration can also unfold on such occasions. To be able to to this, time and patience has to be spent in order to fully appreciate the desperate struggle of Kate to keep hold of her sanity in the face of an increasingly unseen terror. There are some who watch this that might become impatient with the periods of apparently little happening, but this it one of its strengths the as the result is a sometimes implicit yet constant increase of suspense and psychosis.

Another undoubted strength of the movie is the central performance of Whitney Able as Kate, for she is quite simply stunning. In truth she needed to be because the whole success of this examination of a fractured mind rests on a completely authentic and convincing portrayal by the lead actor. And convincing she is, moving effortlessly between ever changing moods of bewilderment, despair and terror as she battles her inner demons. I predict great things for Miss Able, great things indeed.

If you add to that a strong supporting cast, particularly the equally wonderful Breckenridge, a fine script and some inspired lighting and editing which belies the films low budget you have a package that should not fail. I'm sure it won't.

What we have in DARK is a genuinely suspenseful psychological study of the effects of isolation and entrapment. There will be the inevitable comparisons to a certain Mr Hitchcock and his predilection for ripping a vulnerable gorgeous young blonde woman from the secure trappings of normality and placing her in the grasp of many of society's mortal and unspoken fears. I have been lucky enough to have been given the chance to interview the films director in the near future and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this was a conscious homage to Hitchcocks methodology.

A thoroughly enjoyable movie experience.

You can find out much more about this remarkable film at the official DARK website

This article can also be found via the 5D website There you can find a veritable feast of blog articles, news items, pictures and other mouth-watering salutations to the gods of the geeks and the nerds. We have now inherited the earth, you know.

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