Friday, November 15, 2013

Darkroom and Wondering Why: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: a screener of this film was provided by Phase 4 Films.

**there are minor spoilers here.

Director: Britt Napier.

Writer: Michaelbrent Collings.

Cast: Kaylee DeFer, Elisabeth Röhm, Christian Campbell and Tobias Segal.

Darkroom is an indie thriller from writer Michaelbrent Collings and Britt Napier. This is Collings second horrorish screenplay and Napier's first time as director on a feature film. Darkroom stars Kaylee DeFer as Michelle, a woman trapped by her past and also trapped by several malefactors. Told with mystery, this film has a very compelling story, which develops both the protagonist and three antagonists. Darkroom is one of the more satisfying indie features this viewer has seen this year.

The story begins, but does not end, with Michelle. She is in rehab, after a devastating car accident. Three of her friends were burned alive in the wreck and she was the only one who survived. Now, she is hounded by a burdensome counsellour, named Rachel (Elisabeth Röhm). After a few therapy sessions and words of advice, Michelle is released into the community with a job lead. That job lead leaves Michelle in the clutches of some very sadistic people. The film's reliance on mystery means that the story discussion must stop here.

The story is the film's strongest element. Collings has written a compelling tale here; he has improved from the obtuse Barricade (2012). This second feature develops characters more consistently and evenly. Michelle is an interesting lead. Her life in foster homes has been troublesome and now, her life is hardly on the mend in a halfway house. As well, the miscreants are developed through the use of flashbacks and video recordings. These are not one note villains. Also, the script's use of mystery through the first act left this viewer dumbfounded. Where was the film going? This watcher misread the signs, but found himself on a slightly familiar path in the second act. This use of early mystery helped develop some quality tension in early and even in later scenes. Darkroom's story is interesting and this viewer was invested, thoroughly.

The mystery comes from the film's central conflict. Michelle is housed in a small torture chamber, which is the source of the film's title. Here, she is left to her own devices through several scenes. The reasons for her confinement are not revealed, right away. Instead, the plot keeps the viewer in the dark, much like the protagonist. This mystery brings up lots of questions and only a few are answered. Few indie thrillers develop any source of intrigue; that is not the case here.

As well, the darker characters, although consistently minor, are given some attention. Some spoilers loom ahead. Daniel (Tobias Segal), Rachel and Larry (Christian Campbell) are siblings. Their bond is developed mostly through blood and torture, which is then passed onto others. Their background is one of true horror. Now, they are trying to relive their childhood moments by inflicting their own pain onto others. The final scene of the film ends with a flashback of this trio and it is a sad one, when looked at in context. Despite these three generating the conflict and torture of Michelle, there is a compelling reason behind their madness. It is good to see screenplays developing their antagonists, along with their heroes and heroines.

Darkroom tells a strong tale with some interesting characters. This indie feature is set for a release on DVD in Canada and the US in January of 2014. Fans of thrillers and smaller horror features are encouraged to seek out a copy of this film, which uses mystery to draw you in and solid conflict to keep you enthralled. Twisted and tense, Darkroom will excite most fans of the genre. And, that excitement runs through much of the film.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10 (one of the best indie horror/thrillers of 2013, good use of settings and characters, a strong story).

More details on the release of the film, including a trailer, are available here:

Darkroom Release Details on 28DLA

The film's homepage is here:

Darkroom's Official Website


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