Directed by Michael Hurst
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
There has never been a time in my life when the expression psychological thriller has not succeeded in making me cringe. The reason? Nine times out of ten that is the term filmmakers who are ashamed to be working within our genre give to their movies in hopes of gaining wider acceptance. There’s even another variation that is worse — psychological thriller with supernatural overtones. What the fuck does that even mean? Who knows? In any event the aforementioned term(s) perfectly describe Anchor Bay’s latest direct-to-video horror opus, The Darkroom.
Meet the nameless man (Diamond). After spending most of his life in a mental hospital due to an extreme case of amnesia, he is introduced to a woman (Cornell) who just so happens to be shopping around a new wonder drug that has the ability to restore repressed memories to those suffering from a case of the extreme fahgeddaboudits. Desperate to learn his true identity, the man (who occasionally goes by the names of various game show hosts) decides to become the good doctor’s guinea pig, and from there the shit hits the fan.
Not only is the drug helping him to remember stuff, it is also enabling him to follow the exploits of a demon who resembles the illegitimate cousin of the Tar Man zombie from Return of the Living Dead as he hacks away at victim after victim. Certainly all of this is much more than our forgetful hero has bargained for, but them’s the breaks when it comes to foolin’ around with chemicals. The race is on for the man to not only regain his memory but also keep whatever sanity he has left.
Without giving away too much, if you’ve seen any movie like this within the last twenty years, I’m sure you can pretty much guess how The Darkroom winds up. It doesn’t stray far from the formula, but it does give us a cool beastie and some great gore. In fact, it’s kind of hard to really put your finger on what is wrong with this film other than its predictability. The acting is way above par, the effects are cool, and everything else is totally on the competent side of the fence.
So what went wrong? For starters, despite the violent action The Darkroom inexplicably feels just like a made-for-TV movie. At any moment if a TV station’s logo water-mark were to appear at the corner of the screen, there would be little room for surprise. In fact, this is like that movie you catch while surfing cable at 2:00 am. It’s on, it sucks you in a bit, you see it through until the end, and then you move on without even bothering to learn its title. It may not be great, but it is good enough to keep you entertained for a little while.
Also standard fare are the DVD extras. We get three items: a commentary with the producer and director, some deleted scenes, and your typical making-of featurette. Keep in mind there’s really not a helluva lot to delve into here, so these few inclusions cover more than enough ground.
And what familiar ground it is.
In short, (pardon the bad yet fitting pun) not a lot develops in The Darkroom. It’s far from horrible, but it’s not something we haven’t already watched dozens of times before. Still, some good gore and a decent monster help to raise this flick slightly above the average mark. Unless you’re jonesing for a creature feature, my advice is to wait until this puppy shows up on Cinemax or Starz. When that time comes, grab a beer, put the old thinker on auto-pilot, and enjoy the ride for what it’s worth.
Audio commentary with writer/director Mike Hurst and producer Mark A. Altman
The Darkroom Exposed making-of featurette
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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