Chasing Darkness (2007)

Chasing Darkness poster (click for larger image)Starring Todd Humes, Renee Porada, Katie Russell, Curt Chaney, Shannon Solo

Directed by Jason Hull

Having been acquainted with the folks at the Eerie Horror Film Festival for the past couple of years, I often get to be one of the first individuals to watch and review certain films, especially when it comes to the locally made features. Chasing Darkness is just such a picture. Shot right here in Pennsylvania by a cast and crew from the Erie area, the film has been generating quite a bit of buzz in local circles.

Having been assured by people who had already seen the movie that it was “Not too bad,” “Definitely watch-able,” and “Surprisingly good for a first time filmmaker,” I sat down to watch it with a sense of optimism. Within the first few minutes, though, I realized that I was not going to share such opinions. I’ve seen films like this, films with low budgets and even lower quality. The Foywonder has sent me some cinematic tripe that I somehow endured the soul damaging viewings of. Surviving the torment purely due to the fact that I knew the glorious moment would come when I could personally eviscerate it with my keyboard. Yes, I’ve seen films so comparable in fact that the similarities make me want to run into a swamp and curse my head off!

Chasing Darkness was described by the director in a recent interview as “Well, think Lost Boys meets Sopranos or The Godfather, and mix in a great action/martial arts movie.” Let me just educate you all to the fact that this statement is a greater work of fiction than the film could ever hope to be. Damn near insulting to the subjects referenced if you ask me, and I’ve never even seen The Sopranos.

The film follows a member of the Mafia as he attempts to leave “The Family” after a badly botched hit. His boss is livid, his girlfriend is fed up, an old flame is complicating matters even further, and on top of his everyday soap-opera worthy disaster of a life, he has pissed off a large group of local vampires! This concoction of plot particles seems to have been stuffed into a blender and set on high with whatever remained poured into a DVD case. The story itself is hard enough to follow with its random characters that lend nothing to the story save even more audience confusion, but throw in the poorly used “Hey, look! It’s supposed to be dark out” blue filter, and you can kiss reasonable continuity good-bye!

Chasing Darkness (click for larger image)Recently I’ve been bitching about the fact that directors seems to be pulling their punches in their filmmaking. In the case of Chasing Darkness it’s the actors who pull their punches … LITERALLY! There’s more swinging at air in this movie than in a blindfolded baseball game! Now I’ve seen these actors in martial arts action before in previous film roles, and I know what they are capable of under competent instruction. The weak fight sequences in Chasing Darkness are proof to me that there was none on the set of this film. If you are going to use martial arts in a movie, you should at least make sure that you are using a cast that is both qualified and confident in their abilities to make it look good without hurting each other.

The overall production quality is also lacking to say the least. I was not highly impressed with the camera skills shown or the pitiful sound work. I know that windy conditions always seem to be a problem for indie filmmakers, but please for the Love of Everything Horror … figure something out before you say a film is finished. Nothing will irritate me faster than missing dialogue because the soundtrack has somehow turned into a wind tunnel sound byte!

Now I must return to the blue filter. Yes, I must (because it’s dark out…)Used properly, a blue filter can add something very special to a film’s outcome. Like I said … used PROPERLY! In the case of Chasing Darkness, however, you are clearly shown what NOT to do with a blue filter. The most I could figure is the fact that (like I mentioned before) the filter was meant to indicate to the audience that night had fallen. Too bad that no matter what time of the day or night it was supposed to be on screen, the windows of all the structures used in the film were flooded with bright sunlight. The actors were obedient to the script and followed the proper steps of flipping on the light switches as they entered a supposedly dark room, but it didn’t really help as the victi…er, I mean, as the viewer was forced to keep it straight for herself.

Honestly, I was beginning to wonder if the cast and crew were restrained by some oddly enforced curfew or if they were indeed afraid that they would be attacked by actual vampires themselves if they dared attempt filming in the sun’s absence.

As for the cast itself, as mentioned, I have seen most of them in previous movies. Although the names of the characters change from film to film, the roles vary only slightly and the portrayals don’t really improve much. The most notable difference in ability can be seen in Shannon Solo. He may only be on the screen for a few fleeting moments, but after seeing him in other locally made films, this was his first performance that didn’t come across like it could be plunged into the heart of one of the film’s bloodsucking ghouls to end its immortal existence.

A vampire from Chasing Darkness (click for larger image)Speaking of vampires, I have never seen the creatures portrayed in the fashion they were in Chasing Darkness. Devouring the actual flesh of a victim is usually left to the zombified members of the un-dead family; yet, here they were — vampires — tearing into humans left and right, consuming what looked more like shreds of blood-soaked fabric than entrails. They were ludicrous enough with their latex applications hanging loosely from their faces and make-up lines like you usually only see on truck stop hookers, but toss in the flatulent effects of the lead vampire’s fight tactics, and you’ve got a laugh-filled riot on your hands! Okay. It’s more of a laugh-at-you not laugh-with-you situation, but … you still laugh.

Some may think that taking on the daunting task of a feature length film as a first time venture for a filmmaker is ballsy. Unfortunately, it just gives you more to screw up on. But it also gives you more to learn from. Chasing Darkness may not be the worst film ever made, but it almost takes itself too seriously to be taken serious. Hopefully Jason Hull has taken a few lessons and won’t make the same mistakes with his next cinematic adventure.

1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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