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.