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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Vampire > Dark Town

Dark Town


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Film: D



Low-grade genre exercises are usually rites of passages for budding actors and filmmakers.  Most of the time, there’s something about it — dark humor, really over the top acting, hopefully some redeeming story quality, perhaps some interesting direction — to redeem watching it.


In the case of Dark Town, however, the only thing good that can be associated with it is turning it off.


Few films have gone as horribly awry as what occupies the screen when this straight-to-video vampire trainwreck, which wants to be a social parable, is destroying your DVD player and television from the inside out.  From completely unmotivated lesbianism to a father ripping the unborn fetus of his grandson out of his daughter’s womb to the same father, after becoming a vampire, sucking the blood of another of his daughters (incest! Keen!) to imagery of a rotting cat strung up on electrical wires to F-grade writing and directing and even worse acting, Dark Town is, in a word, atrocious.


Most everything on this Earth has some redeeming quality.  Dark Town does not.  The direction is mediocre at best, while the writing is grade-school poor.  The story, something about a city that goes dark from a power outage and is overrun by gangs and racist landowners and — yikes! — vampires, goes nowhere from the get-go.  And when you listen to the commentary — essentially the only extra on this DVD — it’s clear why.


Writer David Birke and director Desi Scarpone are both utterly and completely fascinated by what they see as social commentary wrapped in the guise of a horror film.  Their pretentiousness, especially Birke’s — Scarpone, to his credit, downplays a lot of Birke’s assertions of shots, ideas, and motifs he deems “genius” — demonstrates how what should have been an innocuous genre entry became something far more insidious. What possible excuse can you have for showing a father, after becoming a vampire, ripping a fetus from his daughter’s womb, only to show the amazingly alive and sentient baby to his mother and say, “Look, he has your eyes”?  On the commentary, Birke extrapolates on how, originally, the father was supposed to be holding a glob of goo because the baby wasn’t formed yet, and how the line about his eyes would have gone over in some direction or another, but ultimately, Birke claims, people seem to really like the scene as it is in the film.


What?  Who has seen this besides your frat brothers and family members?  And how many of them do you expect us to believe weren’t shocked and repulsed by the scene and were, probably, embarrassed to no end to say they were even remotely related to you after seeing this movie?


One thing the film has going for it is that it looks half decent.  But in today’s filmmaking world, all you need to make a film look good is a halfway decent camera and some good editing software.  To claim that Dark Town is nice to look at, then, even if the reds are deep and the nighttime scenes aren’t very muddy, is probably a testament to whatever camera the filmmakers used rather than a reflection of the filmmakers themselves.


Audio-wise, the film has a rich and textured soundtrack.  Which is great when you want to hear in startlingly graphic detail the sounds of a man’s hands in a womb.  But hear again, decent equipment and post-production facilities will get you a decent soundtrack, so perhaps the film’s audio success is thanks more to some crafty in-studio technicians than anything the filmmakers did on set — especially because they were all probably too busy patting themselves on the back about how fantastic this project was.


It’s painful to utterly rip into something without acknowledging something worthwhile in it.  But the case of Dark Town is one where to look for something redeeming is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  I only wish I had the last 88 minutes of my life back.  I could have rearranged my sock drawer.



-   Dante A. Ciampaglia


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