Reviewed by Erik W. Van Der Wolf
Starring Eric Berner, Ted LeGarde, Clay Brocker, Darrin Dickerson, Jaimee Gray Simon, Jeff Hime
Written and directed by Darrin Dickerson
As I get older, I tend to think and talk about the past more and more. I do it so often lately my kids’ eyes instantly glaze over as soon as I utter the words “Well, back when I was a kid…” or “Well, there used to be…” I know, I know. Every generation looks back at its youth through the prism of encroaching mortality, missed opportunities, and a longing for a period when you seemed to have more time to enjoy things.
But, to be honest, some things simply were better “back in the day.” And one of those things was the micro budget independent movie, those USA Network TV movies from the 1990s in particular. While most of them were admittedly bad, there was a period when the network upped its game and the quality of those films actually improved. They were still cheap, but they were made with more care by emerging talent who paid attention to detail, attracted better casts, and everyone involved was so because there was an actual attraction to the material and a genuine desire to be there.
Contrast that with today’s Syfy Channel movie where former “name” stars embarrassingly sleepwalk through roles from bad scripts cobbled together purely for a rent check for everyone involved. There's no passion to be found in those films, and it makes you long for a time when cast and crew of small budget pics actually gave a damn because they had pride.
Darrin Dickerson’s D4, though obviously constricted by the limitations of budget, definitely gives a damn and, most of all, has a sense of dignity about it.
Written by, directed by, edited by, and co-starring Darrin Dickerson, D4tells the tale of a small squad of mercenaries who are hired by a billionaire to locate and rescue a son she believes is being held in D4, an abandoned secret military facility located deep in the mountains that “officially” does not exist – a la Area 51. While her son has had issues with drug abuse and crime in the past, she has no idea why the government would kidnap him. She’s also incredibly worried about his health due to his epilepsy. If his captors have no idea of his condition and he doesn’t get his medication, he could die. She wants him back in her care as soon as possible, and the price to achieve that is not an issue.
In a parallel storyline we’re introduced to a grieving grandfather trying to cope with his six-year-old grandson’s epilepsy. The medications doctors are giving him aren’t working and are actually making his condition worse, resulting in outbursts of rage and savage violence. The team of doctors informs him his grandson is having a rare reaction to the medication and they believe he'd be a good candidate for a trial study for a new medication that is designed to avoid those side effects. But he would have to live in the facility so they can monitor his condition twenty-four hours a day. FOC of course. He reluctantly agrees, but when he shows up to visit the boy several days later, he’s nowhere to be found. In fact, neither are the doctors he spoke with. And no one seems to know anything about a trial study.
Determined to find out what’s going on, he discovers his grandson may have been taken to the D4 facility, and faster than you can say “grandpa is a Vietnam Vet”, he sets out to find him.
As expected, the storylines eventually merge as he and our MERC protags cross paths breaking into the facility, and it’s not long before all hell breaks loose and the bullets are flyin’ and people are dyin’ as the secrets of D4 are revealed.
While the story operates in well-mined territory and is somewhat predictable, Darrin Dickerson did enough work on the script’s structure beforehand to keep it entertaining even though it goes down roads we’ve traveled before. Having directed award-winning short films and as a veteran who worked behind the scenes on several major productions, Dickerson clearly understands the craft of filmmaking and does a solid job tackling his first feature as director. More importantly, his cast never plays down to the budget level of the film, and you never get the sense anyone is trudging through this flick for a paycheck. They are honestly striving to deliver the best performances they are capable of. Are they stellar? No. But they’re genuine, which is all you can ask and the least a viewer has the right to expect.
If I had to make one complaint, it would be the use of CGI blood and effects in a handful of scenes. But it’s a minor issue at most and doesn’t ruin the viewing experience.
All in all, D4 can be best described as a satisfying rainy Sunday afternoon flick that knows what it is, strives for more, but never settles for less. It's a prideful first feature effort from Dickerson and Co. at Ghostwater.
D4 can be purchased on the film's distribution website (www.7-7-10.com) or rented on Netflix. A percentage of the profits goes toward epilepsy awareness.
4 out of 5
Discuss D4 in our forums!