In a movie where nothing is as it seems, the line between fear and disbelief can get muddled. This is the unfortunate case for Director David Ryan Keith’s new horror film, The Dark Within. Just like the character, we can’t decipher what’s real or not. Might sound great, however, when reality and time are so disconnected, it’s impossible to believe or fear what’s to come.
Suffering from nightmares, headaches, and visions, Marcus Blaine (Paul Flannery) has been harboring anger and questions ever since he was left as a child. He gets help from therapist Dr. Norton (Stephanie Lynn Styles) as part of his parole following a violent episode. She gifts him with a key to his parents’ cabin to recover some memories and answer those questions. With that sort of isolation what could go wrong?
Thanks to a disembodied voice, he finds and drinks a serum (always a good idea) that enhances psychic abilities. From here his psychedelic otherworldly trip begins. This is also where the suspension of disbelief – or the attempt thereof – begins to tear apart at the impact of the film. He receives a visit from ex-girlfriend Sarah Price (Kendra Carelli) who fears and has a restraining order against him. Leaving the audience and Marcus questioning whether the visitor is actually her or something else entirely.
Not all is lost however when he finally learns the fate of his parents and receives some answers to his burning questions. He discovers his father’s (Niko Foster) secret laboratory that supplies him with tons of handy dandy childhood visions.
Thanks to his father’s experiments on him and, as the title suggests, the key to the mystery is within him. However, by the time it all makes sense, we just don’t care anymore. Ouch.
Because once again we are left in an altered state. Without giving the audience a respite of reality, the fear is diminished. We become numb to the horror when situations are continually reset because, without consequences, there isn’t really a point. That doesn’t mean this film is completely lost. Quite the contrary, there is quite a bit about The Dark Within I did enjoy.
The score and cinematography were really excellent. Shot in Scotland, the use of the cabin and surrounding areas were perfectly done. There was a distinct feeling in the shots correlating to the character’s emotions. Some shots were just a bit off-kilter in the moments you expected to feel the same. A major bonus for little to no cheap jump scares.
While it wasn’t a particularly gory movie, I greatly enjoyed the SFX. The filmmakers didn’t shy away from showing anything and I especially loved the deep rich red of the blood. The Dark Within is definitely not a creature feature, but it does indeed have a creature. And it’s actually very cool when we finally get a good look at it.
Despite itself, The Dark Within was a fun watch with some great elements. However, the disconnect from anything real or concrete is what keeps this decent movie from being a great movie.
The Dark Within comes to DVD and VOD July 9.
- Crystal Cleveland, The Dark Within