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Darklight (2004)

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Darklight reviewsReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Shiri Appleby, Richard Burgi, John de Lancie, and David Hewlett

Directed by Bill Platt


When I first saw the commercial for Darklight, my immediate reaction was that it looked pretty cool. The fact that UFO Films produced it and it was a Sci-Fi Channel Saturday night premiere movie should have instantly told me that it was doomed to crapdom, but I was still intrigued nonetheless. Darklight even managed to get a bit more press on the net than your typical Sci-Fi Channel premiere in part because of its being directed by Bill Platt, who was one of the people behind the popular Sci-Fi Channel short film series Exposure. Unfortunately, it appears Platt failed to learn one very important lesson from his work on Exposure – if there’s nothing interesting on the page, then there isn’t going to be anything interesting on the screen.

The basic premise behind Darklight is an intriguing one, but the execution is just so clichéd, so run of the mill, and so very tired that boredom set in mere minutes into the film. Was there nobody involved with this movie behind the scenes that had any sense of imagination? There’s nothing I hate more than watching a movie that has a premise with tons of potential but doesn’t do a damn thing with it outside of the most basic clichés of the genre. Even clichés can sometimes be presented in an entertaining manner. This is not one of those times.

Darklight is based on the legend of Lilith, who was supposedly the first woman created by God to be Adam’s wife, but she rejected him and the Garden of Eden and so God damned her for all eternity, forcing her to wander the Earth as an unholy monster. A super secret order of clerics called “The Faith” who are so generic they could just as easily be the Watchers from “Buffy” or the Watchers from “Highlander: The Series” have finally managed to subdue Lilith, but instead of killing her, they blank her memory and send her to live with a member of the group.

Fast forward three years later where we are introduced to Shiri Appleby as “L”, the former hellish banshee turned motorbike riding, flower shop clerking, wouldn’t hurt a fly amnesiac searching for clues to her past and why she has these glyphs embedded on her wrist known as the Marks of Daggoth, which are tied to a biblical curse. Mostly “L” just sits in the park staring off into space for long periods of time. Well, at least that’s what she seems to do for most of the film’s first half hour or so. What she doesn’t know but will soon come to learn is that she is this Lilith and thus possesses an ancient power called Darklight.

Let’s jump back for a moment to the whole erased memories thingy. We’ve all seen movies before where characters lose their memory and become better people because they don’t remember that they used to be pricks. However, I have a hard time believing that an evil entity that was condemned to eternal damnation by God wouldn’t show any signs of a dark side just because they can’t remember that God once damned them for all eternity. I’m fairly certain the level of supernatural evil we’re talking about here runs a bit deeper than just repressing some memories and thus should manifest itself somehow even if only in brief moments. I’m fairly certain that there’s a huge difference between having sociopathic tendencies in your behavioral psyche and being an embodiment of pure evil, but according to this movie if you can’t remember that you’re evil incarnate, then you won’t show any traces of it. Using this logic, if “The Faith” ever captures Satan, they can blank his memory and turn him into Will Rogers.

So, what exactly is this Darklight power? One who wields Darklight can heal rapidly, and they can use it as a weapon or bestow its power to any object they are holding like, say, a hubcap, thus upgrading it from a +1 hubcap to a +6 hubcap. This comes in handy when one needs a weapon and fists and claws just won’t do. It also gives one the ability to take on a Demonicus form and, in Lilith’s case, a pre-Demonicus form that makes her look like a charcoal version of Mystique. But really it’s just a generic superpower that could just as easily have been the basis for a character on Mutant X. When your movie is based around the concept of a superpower and the superpower proves to be as uninspired as Darklight is, then you know there was never any hope for the flick to begin with.

And I’m sorry, but certain actors and actresses just shouldn’t be cast in certain roles. You don’t cast Jackie Chan as an English teacher, you don’t cast Carrot Top as the male lead in an erotic thriller, you don’t cast Paris Hilton as Cinderella, and you do not cast the cute dark-haired waif from “Roswell” as a demonic badass. You just don’t. Shiri Appleby is incapable of giving off that hard edge vibe that this role desperately needed. She’s playing a character that is supposed to be one of the most evil, ruthless, and unholy fiends in biblical history that now finds herself as the only hope to save humanity; but she comes across as just an average girl living out her Buffy fantasy. Eliza Dushku’s Faith and Lucy Lawless’ Xena were both characters that turned good after committing evil acts, and both played their roles with a sense of remorse and occasionally, when provoked, showed signs of their dark side. That is totally missing here. Maybe it was the fault of the writer and director more than Miss Appleby, but “L” comes across as nothing more than an ordinary girl that suddenly finds herself with superpowers. Thus, the character of “L” isn’t even remotely interesting because we’ve seen this character so many times before. I’m more inclined to blame it on the casting of Appleby because she just can’t pull it off. She plays her one scene of true remorse with unrealistic Susan Lucci-like melodrama, and her attempts to act tough just come across as a unconvincing posing and play acting.

A generic b-movie like this needs a generic b-movie villain, and so along comes John de Lancie in his umpteenth generic b-movie villain role, this time as a disillusioned member of “The Faith” fed up with a lack of answers from God about the reason why we exist, the difference between good and evil, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, and every other generic reason why a person would renounce his faith and try to unleash the apocalypse. He’s manipulated another member of “The Faith” into turning himself into a Demonicus, a gargoyle-like demon that looks like Pumpkinhead after six months on the Slim Fast diet. If being a bloodthirsty, anorexic hellbeast wasn’t enough, this Demonicus also carries with it a biblical plague known as the Red Death or the Red Plague or the Red Buttons, I forget. Whatever it was called, this plague starts out with people developing unsightly red blotches and culminates in them turning into a big quivering mound of red fungus. There is no cure for this plague – except for the one that conveniently turns up in the film’s climax – and it is prophesized to be the plague that will bring about the end times. The Demonicus also goes around killing a few specific people for reasons that were either never explained or were explained later on during a 15-20 minute period where I actually dozed off on the movie due to sheer boredom. I’m not kidding. This movie literally put me to sleep a little over an hour into it.

“The Faith” learns about the plague spreading Demonicus being on the loose and decides to activate Lilith to kill it. The reason the leader of “The Faith” refused to destroy Lilith when they had the chance and instead decided to put her in the Heretic Protection Program is that there’s another prophecy stating that Lilith will turn good and possibly save humanity from the forces of evil. This doesn’t sit well with a certain member of “The Faith” that gets the assignment to help retrain Lilith to use her Darklight to fight the forces of evil because she killed his son many years earlier. The tension that is supposed to exist between these two barely registers. Again, I don’t know if it was the actors or the writing – probably both – but there is just no sense of conflict to be found anywhere. Everything about this movie aside from the intriguing concept at the heart of it is done in the least interesting way possible.

From there it pretty much plays out just like you’d expect a “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” knock-off to play out. And that is what Darklight ultimately is – another Buffy wannabe. Hell, judging by the action scenes, Lilith not only possesses the power of Darklight, but she’s also a world-class gymnast and martial arts expert.

One thing I really don’t understand is why a movie that is based around Christian theology never even tries to deal with the subject matter of religious faith in any specific detail. Every single time the subject matter comes up, the characters always talk around it instead of actually delving into it. God forbid that a movie whose storyline is steeped in religion actually deals with the topic. Were the filmmakers afraid of offending someone or turning some people off if they actually dealt with theology? How can you make a movie that features a group of religious clerics called “The Faith” yet they don’t really seem to have any? Personally, I think they were just afraid they might introduce an element into the movie that might actually make things interesting and add some weight to their flimsy story.

Darklight’s big highlight scene is an all-CGI battle between the Demonicus and Lilith in her own feminine Demonicus form, and when I say “all-CGI battle,” I do mean all-CGI. Everything in the scene from the background to the lighting to the creatures fighting is computer generated. That would be all well and good except the CGI is on par with a cut scene in a Playstation 2 video game. It was so unconvincing that I could only shake my head and laugh. I realize that computer effects are the “in” thing, but I cannot for the life of me comprehend why so many low-budget monster movie filmmakers rely on computer animation that isn’t even remotely realistic over going the more traditional route of using a guy in a rubber suit, make-up, and/or puppetry. The guy in the rubber monster suit might not be completely realistic either, but at least he’s tangible; and while he may move in a clunky manner, at least he won’t move like a cartoon character. During Darklight a commercial aired for this new computer animated G.I. Joe movie, and I swear the special effects in this demon battle scene were no better than the clips I saw from that computer animated film. Listen to me filmmakers: Do Not Fear The Rubber Suit!

Worst of all, Darklight ends in a manner that makes it perfectly clear that it is intended to be the launching point for a potential TV series. I don’t think so. At least, I hope not.

If you managed to read this entire review without nodding off or feeling compelled to click on another link, then this review of Darklight has proven to be more interesting than the film itself. Darklight is just a total dead zone. Unless you lust after Shiri Appleby or are in desperate need of a drug-free sleep aid, then I cannot think of a single reason why anyone should ever waste his or her time sitting through this unimaginative snooze fest.

0 ½ out of 5

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4 (3 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.31 (16 votes)
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