Friday, December 25

Nothing like a little Darkness on Christmas...

"This one will fuck you up, a shame no one's heard of it!" Those were the words of the wigged-out and tatted-up dude I bought this tape from years ago. I was among those who had no idea what I was looking at, but just look at that damn cover all slathered in gratuitous porno for the horror fanatic's eyes. Even if what was recorded on the magnetic tape held within sucked, that's one hell of a cover to pass up. Not to mention when a guy wearing a Goatlord t-shirt with a tattoo sleeve depicting the bloody muscle structure under his skin tells you something will "fuck you up"--it's probably best to listen.

Film Threat Video's Darkness, the film's 1993 home video debut, marked my introduction to the realm of the genre known as no-budget splatter. Since then, I've seen quite a few suburban homebrew Karo syrup freakouts, but Leif Jonker's sprawling opus still stands as the most ambitious. The complaints of the film's distractors fall into the usual checkboxes of indies of this ilk. The extremely poor lighting (vastly helped by Barrel Entertainment's definitive DVDs), the actually-not-too-bad acting, some barely audible dialogue, plot holes, and even the metalhead attire of the youthful cast fall under the sights of critics. Although true to varying degrees, nitpicking such details misses the broader qualities of this rollicking DIY vampire epic.

Aside from very few other underground Super8/shot-on-video genre offerings, Darkness has an undeniable consistency. The showcase sequences involving gas station suicide, chainsaws pissed off at drywall, Olympic car wash stall spiriting, and mildly adverse reactions to the ultraviolet spectrum are paced evenly as to have no stretch become boring. The quieter moments in between don't drag with some story particulars glossed over for the sake of this welcoming brevity. This is a quality that's often found lacking from such basement horrors that make for a laborious sitdown. For this aspect alone, Jonker deserved a career in the genre (this is the director's sole film), as even horror with budgets tenfold struggle with this very issue.

It's tough to peg down, but the scenes of teen vampires and our teen heroes running from them have a certain adolescent vitality. You could edit a compelling video to R.E.M.'s Drive using these snippets. There's even a bit of moment-of-detonation atom bomb imagery mixed into all the grue. Last but certainly not least, the gore and splatter is tremendous. Heads become pop rocks, convenience store stand-offs become fodder for shock websites, flesh melts into red-slicked raw chicken meat, and trembling corpses become one with asphalt through self-mutilating yoga exercises. Darkness is a testament to picking up your parent's cheap camera and the perfect example of a horror film that admirably reaches far past its literal Denny's steak and eggs budget.


Unknown said...

I am a huge fan of the hair in this film ... what a handfull of teenagers and a few buckets of blood can do is amazing

the jaded viewer said...

Jonker's Darkness got me started on searching for more indie splatter horror. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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