Dark Reel (2008)

Dark Reel review!Reviewed by Melissa Bostaph

Starring Tiffany Shepis, Edward Furlong, Lance Henriksen, Tony Todd, Rick Baker

Directed by Josh Eisenstadt

Every once in a while I come across a cinematic gem that just needs to be doted upon. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I will do my best to make sure everyone knows about it. They may not agree with me, but I can guarantee they will hear about it at least a hundred times before I’m done…

And then I’ll just start over!

Dark Reel is one such film. When judging submissions for the Eerie Horror Film Festival, I always try to keep my expectations lower than normal because I know I’m watching indie films instead of major productions, but it is always nice to be pleasantly surprised by talent! Josh Eisenstadt hit the nail right on the head with this one and damn near buried it on the first whack!

Adam Waltz (Furlong) is a quirky, down on his luck fan-boy who wins a walk-on role in a local B-movie, but his small part begins to grow as the cast of the film shrinks at the hand of a vicious murderer. Of course because Adam is benefiting from the sudden deaths of his co-actors, he becomes the number one suspect in the crimes. Detective Shields (Todd) and his partner are bound and determined to get to the bottom of the murders, which are beginning to point to an all but forgotten murder case, but are they focusing on the wrong person?

Dark Reel review!Furlong (T-2, Detroit Rock City) and Todd (Candyman, Hatchet) are joined by Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Pumpkinhead), sexy B-movie scream princess Tiffany Shepis, and even effects wizard Rick Baker in this delightfully wicked dark comedy. All deliver solid performances, although Hendriksen did seem to take his role to just this side of absurd at times. And let me just say that never have I seen Tiffany Shepis shine the way she did in her role as Cassie Blue! It was so refreshing to see her showcased in a way that brought out every ounce of talent and loveliness that all too often gets covered and disguised under too much make-up, cheesy scenarios, and uncomfortable whorish qualities by less competent directors.

This brilliant casting is only made stronger by the cleverly written story, great kills and make-up effects, and fantastic direction. My only “reel” complaints are the slightly lengthy runtime, which could be trimmed down a bit, and the considerably cheesy haunting effects of the long dead Scarlett May. Unfortunately, these ethereal images wind up more ghastly than ghostly.

All in all, though, Dark Reel is a damn enjoyable slasher flick with a sick flair of humor that keeps the audience off guard and guessing to the twisted end. It’s no wonder that it is enjoying a great run on the festival circuit right now, including being a selection of the Eerie Horror Film Festival. Congrats to the cast and crew on your well deserved success!


4 out of 5

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Melissa Bostaph

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  • e-x-i-t

    This was a nicely done review and I can tell you genuinely liked this movie, but I dunno…

    Lance Henriksen, Tony Todd and many of the other actors do their best but no matter how much “oomph” they put into their roles, the whole thing gets dragged down by the painfully bad acting of others and a general “made-for-tv” vibe to the whole affair (which i guess would be “made-for-cinemax” given the random bits of t&a and gore that pop up here and there.)

    The film opens up with some pseudo-noir black and white bit that desperately wants to look artsy and creepy but ends up looking like a random Japanese gore flick (Guinea Pig, maybe?) before the credits roll and the main story kicks in.

    The review sums up the story from that point on, so I’ll just add a few (nitpicking) reasons why i couldn’t get into it.

    – Bad special fx. Not just the painfully bad shots of Scarlett’s ghost, but the grue scenes as well. The body of the first victim looks super fake and for some reason cheesy cgi blood was added to an underwater casualty later on. If the violence was integral to anything, it would be a case of “hey, we worked with the budget we had”, but that brings me to the next complaint…

    – Dear movie,

    You are NOT Mulholland Drive.

    It’s almost as if the director was actually a set of twins – one that wanted to make a Troma/Full Moon-style horror flick and his nerdy brother that sneaked onto the set after watching a David Lynch box set. If it had gone one way or the other, it would have been fabulous but the artistic ambition wrote checks the f-grade gore and horrible supporting actors couldn’t cash. Segue to…

    – The extreme spectrum of acting…

    The Good – Henriksen and Todd are fabulous and never take themselves too seriously throughout. Their back and forth banter would provide some of the best moments if it wasn’t dragged down by badly mixed background music. Henriksen’s character is an odd mix of Lloyd Kaufmann and Citizen Kane (or maybe a movie producer grandson of Daniel Day Lewis’ character in There Will Be Blood.) Rena Riffel plays Todd’s partner and for the short time she spends on camera, she’s so entertaining you won’t even wonder why a cop is wearing a halter top. Brook Lyons plays Henriksen’s assistant and also manages to cram a great performance into a tiny amount of screen time. She was criminally underused and her “leper” bit was one of the high points of the film for me. Furlong and Shepis are both great given what they have to work with scriptwise.

    The Bad – The director of the movie-in-the-movie looks like Dane Cook and is almost as irritating. A few others are iffy without being truly horrid, but they get killed off soon enough that it isn’t an issue.

    The Fugly – There are a few characters that exist for no reason other than grue fodder and yet most of them live until the end of the film. It’s hard to put into words how annoying the characters of Rhett and the sound guy are, so you’ll just have to see it. Suffice to say, when a joke about onion related bad breath isn’t funny once, it won’t be funny 500 times. There’s also a random paparazzi guy that fills the typical scare flick duty of popping up to provide fake scares and exposition.

    Sorry my first post had to be a long, windy rant about what could have been a good movie. The enthusiasm of the reviewer is contagious and I honestly wanted to like this movie even a little.

    • Uncle Creepy

      Agreed. I thought it kind of sucked too.