Dark Hours, The (2005)

Starring Kate Greenhouse, Aidan Devine, Iris Graham, Dov Tiefenbach

Directed by Paul Fox

I wanted to begin this review by saying that watching The Dark Hours made me proud to be Canadian, (pass me another eskimo!), but the last thing I want to do is straddle this incredible movie with the stigma of being a “Canadian Film.” So, let’s get this out of the way; yes, The Dark Hours was made in Canada by a bunch of plaid jacketed hosers, but it’s also got tag-team lunatics, torture, mutilation, perversion, and sadism by the bucketful. If that’s not universally appealing, well I just don’t know what is!

The story revolves around Dr. Samantha Goodman, a psychiatrist, and stereotypical over-achieving “ice bitch”, who surrounds herself with an underachieving husband, and sister. The three of them are spending a weekend at their isolated cabin in the woods, where they receive a visit by a murderous rapist named Harlan Pyne, and his young protégé, Adrian. It seems Harlan, a patient from Samantha’s past, has had enough of having his head shrunk by the good doctor, and wants to practice some psychological experiments of his own.

The film proceeds to break down into a series of cruel vignettes, featuring Harlan refereeing “games” designed to demean and torture his captive victims. However, Harlan’s purpose runs deeper than just a simple desire for revenge, he wants his “patients” to come to a deeper understanding of themselves, and take responsibility for their, possibly less than virtuous, actions.

Aiden Devine’s portrayal of Harlan deserves special mention for being wickedly understated and menacing. Devine avoids the stereotypical psychotic mania, and creates a charismatic and intelligent, but nonetheless extremely frightening killer. If you crossbred Krug from Last House on the Left with Hannibal Lecter, and gave the resulting love child a nasty looking pair of pliers, you’d have a pretty good idea about the character of Harlan Pyne.

While it’s possible to watch The Dark Hours, strictly as a tense as hell backwoods-psycho-torture film, there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Director Paul Fox and writer Wil Zmak manage to include explorations of infidelity, accountability, gender politics, and modern psychiatry. All this, AND doornail lobotomies! Add to this some incredibly dark and moody cinematography, disconcerting sound design, a great supporting cast, and an ambiguous and thought provoking finale, and you’ve got a rare horror movie find: a smart, harrowing film that isn’t afraid to wallow around in the guts of it’s exploitation ancestry. Keep an eye out for director Paul Fox people, this is one hoser who knows his horror eh.

4 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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