Director: Ray Gower
“But I think that’s what Hell is…it’s having your sins pulled out from the dark corners of your soul and served back to you, in this endless loop of torture.”
Greetings hellspawns and do-gooders. Hellion here reviewing Anchor Bay’s Dark Corners.
Susan has it all: lovely home, lovely boyfriend, lovely job, and a lovely soon to be perfect existence. What Susan doesn’t have is a prescription to Diazepam, so she can stop suffering from these nasty nightmares of a woman named Karen, who looks exactly like herself, only with really bad hair. Karen’s living in a perfect nightmare: creepy home, creepy attacks by a crazed manic, creepy mortuary job and a creepy soon to be hellish existence. Eventually, each woman comes to believe they’re dreaming of one another but have no idea why. The common denominator between them is quite sinister.
Dark Corners is an American horror film trying its hand in the Asian horror style, minus the iconic blue ghosts. The result is a slow, sometimes boring, and confusing story sprinkled with fleeting humor but some really creepy moments. For all practical purposes, it’s a good effort by a first time director. The simple story of a young mother-to-be suffering from terrible nightmares of woman living in hellish world is a curious and puzzling one. You’re immediately thrust into both worlds in an exchange of back and forth. There’s some good visual work here showing the contrast between a world of light and world of dark, of the two woman, who viewers are purposely led to believe are the same person.
Susan can’t close her eyes without watching her alternate reality twin, Karen, get beaten, raped and sometimes worse by some psycho serial killer. Susan’s world is near perfect, loving new husband, great job, good friends/co-workers and brilliant doctors are working round the clock to give Susan the best medical care. In contrast, Karen lives in a dark, grimy, dirty home, works in a mortuary, is harassed by evil cats-eyed children screaming obscenities at her, glared out by fellow bus riders for no apparent reason and to top it off, Karen is the object of a deranged psycho, who delights in torturing her, steals fetuses from her body, sneaks into her home at night and attacks her while she sleeps, leaving her bloody and beaten each morning. Karen lives in hell.
Back in Susan’s world, if swollen ankles and morning sickness weren’t enough, this poor woman’s nightmares are slowing shifting into her own reality. Throw in a subplot of a serial killer on the loose in her home town, unoriginally dubbed the “Night Stalker,” I’m surprised Susan ever left the house. But she does leave the house, goes to work, visits a shrink and enjoys a seemingly normal existence, well, up until the moment the Night Stalker kills a friend anyway. It’s those “normal” moments that slow down the movie a bit. But don’t fast forward through them no matter how mundane, since the movie jumps back and forth between Susan and Karen’s subplots, you need to watch all in order to understand the confusing and somewhat hurried ending.
The dialogue is simple and somewhat bland, leaving the talented Thora Birch with little to work with, as she plays dual roles of Susan and Karen. I would have liked to have seen more fleshed out characters. While their look and stories were vastly different, their dull personalities were the same. Thora certainly has the acting chops but I think she was held back, which is unfortunate, as it could have made the more curious half of the tale even better.
In the supporting roles, virtual unknown Christian Anholt has cute face, but no real talent and none was needed with his lines anyway. I’m sure if he keeps auditioning, he’ll eventually build a resume and get lucky with a breakout role one day. Veteran film, TV and English theater actor Toby Stephens lends some credibility to the film, playing Susan’s hyponotherapist, Dr. Woodleigh. The good doctor tries to help Susan figure out her dark dreams in a somewhat amusing exchange. Both Joanna Hole and Lorraine Bruce play tragically destined close friends to Susan/Karen. They provide some comic relief, unfortunately, too little of it.
First time Writer/Director Ray Gower must be a David Lynch fan, as this film bends more towards being a seriously deep psychological thriller than a real horror film. However, there are some real scary moments whenever in Karen’s dark twisted hell, there’s a Saw meets Silent Hill type of feel to it. Although, I liked this movie, I can easily see how it might be slow and confusing to some people. The film uses a lot of symbolism and obscure imagery to enhance their macabre tale. Ultimately, some symbols fall flat and even though I feel I understand the movie, those evil, cats-eyed, menacing kiddies in Karen’s world still have me scratching my head.
Costumes and sets are simple, yet strong enough to convey the sharp contrast between Susan’s life and Karen’s hell. No real special effects or make-up here. This is a psychological horror film that uses real sets and imagery to drive its story.
I’ve heard a lot of people complain that the end didn’t explain the movie at all. Not true, it was a lame ending, but, there was indeed an explanation. In fact, it does it with one sentence. Simply paying attention to the opening and ending scene is all that is needed to tie all the loose ends together.
Clocking in a 92 mins, if you like bizarre horror puzzles to figure out, this film’s for you. If you’re tired, preoccupied, lazy, or believe or not, pregnant, you might not like this one.
Dark Corners gets three pitchforks outta five.