Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dark Circles and Shadowy Figures: A Movie Review

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*there are spoilers here.

Tagline: "In this home, no one sleeps."

Director/writer: Paul Soter.

Cast: Johnathon Schaech, Andrea Frankle, Pell James, and Philippe Brenninkmeyer.

Dark Circles is an indie horror title from the After Dark Originals label. The film has been shot by first time feature filmmaker Paul Soter and much of the action onscreen is confined to one set. In a large house, a family must deal with a haunting and possibly a crazed lunatic. What is real is mostly left up to the viewer. However, a few horror fans might be tempted to decide if events are hallucinations or something more dangerous. And, this well shot film is continuously entertaining.

Dark Circles focuses on a husband and wife. Alex (Johnathon Schaech) and Penny (Pell James) have their hands full with a new child to raise and a new home to settle into. If that is not enough stress, this couple must also deal with a sinister element, which inhabits the home. Both characters cannot find any shuteye and they begin to hallucinate after several days of restlessness. As well, burnt dolls turn up in cupboards, a babysitter goes missing and viewers might wonder what is really happening. The lack of concreteness in the story creates for one of the film's best elements.

Character Alex sleeps through the climax of the film.


The directing style for the feature is also a strong suit. Director Paul Soter is obviously experimenting with his visual style. And, most of the tests with the camera work. There is an excellent scene involving a villain who emerges from a darkened cupboard to terrorize a babysitter. The apparition appears small and distorted in the small space, which makes this character's appearance surreal. Is the figure a premonition or something else? The shooting style would hint at the supernatural. Soter also uses a harness on one of his actors, to show the character's distress. This tight shooting style captures actress Pell James' panic as she searches for her child. The directing style is diverse and the lack of lighting, in many of the scenes, magnifies the tension onscreen.

Is there a supernatural element in this picture? This watcher would say yes. Both characters see an apparition in the background of many scenes. Alex sees a shadowy figure from a kitchen window. Also, characters appear in different locations in a short period of time. The baby, Tanner, appears in a dark figure's arms in seconds. It is certain that a supernatural element is manipulating characters and several strange events. Also, the husband, Alex, is still seeing a ghost late into the picture, after a major antagonist is killed. Some viewers might say that he is hallucinating because of lack of sleep. However, Alex has just woken from a long nap and his sleep deprivation would be minor, at this point in the film. The child is put in danger several times, symbols of burnt children appear often and the setting has a haunted or Gothic look to it. All of these elements together point to a strong paranormal element living in the house, outside of the obvious physical one.

Dark Circles is an entertaining time. Soter captures many of the terrifying elements onscreen in a compelling fashion. The acting from the main characters is well done and actors Johnathon Schaech and Pell James look believably tired after not having slept for several days. The story is a simple one to keep the events focused on one primary set. But, the story does have a couple of layers as seen by the multiply entities which harass Alex and Penny. All in all, Dark Circles will create a few questions, which might be answered through a couple of viewings and that is a testament to the qualified team behind Dark Circles.

Overall: 7.25 (interesting characters, solid conflict, little downtime and ambiguous story elements)

A trailer for the film is here:

Dark Circles Trailer at 28DLA

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