Ring of Darkness (2004) - Dread Central
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Ring of Darkness (2004)



Starring Jeremy Jackson, Coltin Scott, Ryan Starr, and Adrienne Barbeau

Directed by David DeCoteau

No, I have not taken leave of my faculties, at least no more than usual, and no, this is not an April Fools Day prank either. I really am about to write a mostly positive review of a David DeCoteau movie about a zombie boy band. Believe me, I’m as shocked about this as you are.

David DeCoteau films of recent years usually have plenty of homoerotic imagery and overtones. This often makes him the butt of jokes but hey, the man has carved his own niche out of making horror movies catering to a gay male audience and he’s very upfront about it, so if you are straight like me and rent one of his movies then you shouldn’t be shocked or put-off by seeing young, half-naked, wet-lipped pretty boys cavorting about. That said; if there was a strong homoerotic element to Ring of Darkness then I honestly didn’t notice. I mean we are talking about a movie based around a boy band and boy bands are usually considered pretty gay to begin with, aren’t they? Boyishly handsome young men coming up with dance steps that require the flashing of their washboard abs as much as humanly possible is pretty much a boy band trademark. The only time the homoeroticism seemed totally gratuitous was when the band members would perform their black ceremony that had them strip to their underwear, strap the also stripped down to his underwear subject of the ritual to an alter, and do a little laying on of the hands.

You know I’m still not sure exactly what form of evil they are supposed to be of. Their rituals seem to be a combination of satanic and voodoo, but the movie never really explains the mojo at work here. Whatever devil or deity they’re worshipping there are only two things for certain. One, it grants them immortality. Two, it requires them to strip down to their boxer shorts during ceremonies.

But anyway, “Take Ten” is the hottest boy band around. When not on tour, appearing on television, or just finding ways to make stupid girls squeal with glee, the band resides on a tropical island where they live, work on their music, rehearse their dance moves, and eat their lead singer after he learns the horrible truth about his bandmates and decides it might be a good time to go solo.

Okay, I’m not quite sure they actually ate him. The members of this undead boy band always kill as a group by encircling their victim and then basically pouncing on top of him. It’s never really made clear if they eat them like the zombies they are, drink their blood like vampires, or just gang save them like a pack of overly enthusiastic fundamentalists.

The band announces that their lead singer has checked himself into drug rehab – the movie never even attempts to clue us in on how they are going to explain the fact that he will never return from this phantom Betty Ford Clinic – and are going to conduct a nationwide talent search for a new lead singer.

The talent contest scene is unintentionally hilarious because the contestants have to perform their version of the band’s most popular song yet no matter who is singing the song on the film’s soundtrack has the exact same vocal track as the original version. They’re all lip-syncing the same exact song even though they’re just supposed to be doing a cover of it. Only their dance steps are different. I bet Rev. Joe Simpson would blame this all on acid reflux.

And yes, the song does indeed suck. It’s also instantly forgettable so you won’t have to worry about it echoing in your head for hours.

The talent search comes down to three finalists. One is actually an undercover cub reporter for a major supermarket tabloid, another is a darker skinned Justin Guarini look-a-like, and then there is the film’s hero, a cool rebel wannabe named Shawn, who dresses like the president of the Bon Jovi fan club, constantly walks around with a guitar on his shoulder, and is ever whining about how much he hates this boy band crap and only wants to make real music. Everything about the guy and his sullen, 15-years out of date, wannabe rock star persona makes you want to root for the demonic boy band to kill him in a horrible fashion. The only reason he is even auditioning is because his girlfriend Stacy talked him into it. She repeatedly tells him that getting the gig with “Take Ten” will be a good starting point for his floundering musical career, although, as the film progresses it appears she might actually have alternative motives of her own.

I got to stop here for a second and talk about Ryan Starr, who plays Stacy. Miss Starr is another reality show contestant trying to turn that into an acting career. She finished 7th on a previous season of “American Idol” and as evidenced by her performance in this movie, that show is obviously not an acting contest. While she may be very easy on the eyes it doesn’t change that fact that her performance is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Between her very husky voice and marble-mouthed attempts at acting, most of the lines that come out her mouth sound borderline garbled. I honestly had to rewind the tape to understand what she said on more than one occasion. And you’d think that if she were best known for being an “American Idol” contestant there would at least be a scene in the movie where she sings. Nope. Doesn’t get naked either. Don’t quit your day job, honey.

All three finalists are whisked away to the band’s island retreat where they are put through rigorous dance choreography tests to determine their worthiness before being eaten by them when they discover the truth. Admittedly, the scene where Shawn comes across old memorabilia detailing how the members of the band have been forever young for nearly half a century is quite amusing, especially the picture of them as hippie folk rockers.

Speaking of which, I haven’t introduced you to the members of “Take Ten” yet, have I? Their leader is Xavier, played by Jeremy Jackson, best known as David Hasselhoff’s son on “Baywatch”. Other than being the brains of the operation and a white guy with black hair there really isn’t much more to his character. There’s also a somewhat dorky whitebread hunk and an Asian guy, neither of which have much to say or do other than look to Xavier for spiritual leadership. The only other member with anything resembling a personality is the one that looks exactly like Eminem, only if Eminem was a tattoo-free, vanilla boy band member. Other than his resemblance to a certain Slim Shady, the one trait that makes him standout is the blatant racism he exudes on a few occasions. This guy has no problem expressing his displeasure with the possibility of a black lead singer and still isn’t all that happy having to work alongside and Asian either.

Adrienne Barbeau is cast as the band’s manager. She is well aware of what lies beneath their acrylic Darkman exteriors and is convinced that Shawn is the one they’re looking for, this despite the fact that he constantly expresses his dislike for the band, their music, their image, and just having to share the same oxygen as them. It’s never fully explained why she’s so high on this guy other than possibly being attracted to him. I swear she talks about Shawn being “the one” almost as much as Morpheus did about Neo.

Hmmm… It just occurred to me that I still haven’t really given you any particular reason why you should see this movie. Heck, I’m not completely sure why I kind of liked it. It sure isn’t scary. Heck, for the most part it plays out like a barely R-rated episode of “Goosebumps”.

The first half of Ring of Darkness breezed along but when it started to fall apart it really fell apart. The trouble begins when the undercover reporter follows the band to their secret ritual lair and we’re subjected to about two or three straight minutes of them just walking through the jungle at night to the tune of one of their crappy songs along with randomly inserted clips of their music video already seen at length earlier in the film. Not long after that we are subjected to a pointless dream sequence. Few things I hate more about horror movies than when a lengthy dream sequence is tossed in just to try and provide a false scare. From there, scenes seemingly happen at random, many of which just repeat stuff already established previously.

It all culminates in a final showdown where one character’s ulterior motives are revealed – revealed to be utterly ridiculous if you ask me – and the boy band is dispatched in a manner that is so anticlimactic it isn’t even funny. I mean that’s it? That’s all it took to destroy them? Worst of all, the movie dares to add a surprise twist ending that is so lame the lameness of it almost has a zen-like quality. I’m not really sure what I mean by that but I really can’t think of any better way to describe just how utterly lame the big twist at the end is.

I’m not even sure why I was even entertained at all by this movie not that I think about it. It’s not good, not by a long shot. Maybe it’s because I went into the movie with expectations as low as humanly possible or maybe it just caught me on a good day? I don’t know. It’s little more than a time waster but I’ve wasted time watching stuff infinitely worse than this cheesefest.

One thing I’ve still yet to understand is the film’s title. Ring of Darkness? What ring? There is no actual ring in the movie. Is it a reference to the band? There are only four members. They stand in a square when performing their nearly clothing optional rituals so that can’t be it. I suppose it could be in reference to the way they encircle their prey but even that would be pushing it.

So many questions that will forever go unanswered…

2 ½ out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review



Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith

I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5


Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



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

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


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)


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.

User Rating 4.11 (18 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




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.


  • 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


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.

User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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