Studio: Anchor Bay
Film Length: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 - Non-Anamorphic
Audio: English DD 5.1 & 2.0
US Release Date: May 22, 2007
The Film - out of
The dueling lives of a young woman intertwine as the dream and the nightmare existence of the two link to each other throughout Dark Corners. The young woman, Susan, played by Thora Birch (American Beauty) lives a seemingly suburban idyllic life, trying with her husband David (Christien Anholt) to get pregnant and working through the fertility procedures to help make that happen. But her life is mirrored by a dark and dystopian world that she inhabits when she is sleeping. In this alternate world, the news is filled with stories of the gruesome killings by a killer dubbed the ‘Nightstalker’, and her doppelganger works in a mortuary and is plagued by voices and stalked by the terrifying killer on the loose.
Troubled by her nightmares and the stress of trying to become pregnant, Susan visits the dashing Dr. Woodley (Toby Stephens), based on the recommendation of a co-worker. Entering a hypnotic state, she is faced with her mirrored life and seeks to find the answers to her nightmares.
Written and Directed by Ray Gower, "Dark Corners", according to the cover, likens itself to the masterful "Sixth Sense" and films such as "Dead Again" and "Lost Highway". Now that’s a stretch. The film, while earnest in its attempt to tell a frightening and thrilling tale whose clues and tips are littered through the story fails in several fundamental ways.
"The Sixth Sense" is a good case study and comparison to "Dark Corners", as it layers the story with telling signs, hints if you will, to the final reveal. But it does so in a knowing way, a way that illustrates the effort that went into crafting the story, replete with chilling and legendary moments, all converging at end with a grand payoff for the mind and heart.
"Dark Corners" has a few pieces, small story elements that have a link to the payoff, albeit tenuous at times, but it never has a clear idea of what it wants that payoff to say to the audience. And so, it comes across as a muddy and muddled mess. While I can agree that films should not spoon feed answers and should allow the viewer to come to conclusions themselves, there has to be enough in the film to help build that picture and help make sense of it all. It is here that Dark Corners really comes up short
The performance by Thora Birch is actually rather good, but the other main players and peripheral characters aren’t as well thought out. The smaller characters are often clumsy and, at times, belie the story: Managing to drain scenes of their drama or strained sense of humor with tired absurdities and poor accents.
The Video - out of
Although the packaging states that "Dark Corners" is enhanced for widescreen TV’s, it most certainly is not. The non-anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio presents some real problems, containing more grain here than I am ok with. It could be argued that the grain enhances certain elements of the story, but, along with softness in many scenes, the substandard picture quality provides for more distraction than a film with a somewhat weak story and disappointing execution can ultimately stand. Some of the steely white and ominous green hues that bathe certain scenes look good for what is obviously a film with a tight budget, but the director also chooses to use the orange sky filter that anyone who has seen a Tony Scott film in the last 20 years should be more than familiar with. However, that filtering technique doesn’t work within the confines of this film.
The Sound - out of
"Dark Corners" contains both an English 2.0 and 5.1 track. I think that horror films should be held to the highest regard when it comes to sound design and representation in home theater settings. "Dark Corners" holds up pretty good in this regard, using the surrounds to solid effect on occasion (one of my favorite effects is the seemingly endless alarm clock as it echoes to a close when it is shut off).
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track by comparison is pretty flat and robs a few scenes of much of their power.
The Extra’s - out of
"Dark Corners" only comes with a few trailers and a making of featurette.
- Dark Corners trailer – (Non-anamorphic)
- Apartment Zero trailer (Full frame)
- Pleasure Drivers trailer (Non-anamorphic).
- Out of the Shadows – Making of Dark Corners – (13 Mins) This is actually a pretty interesting feature, with some behind the scenes conversations with writer/director Ray Gowen, revealing the genesis for the film as well as his interesting storyboarding technique. Conversations with the producer and cast members are also included.
"Dark Corners" fails the sum of its parts. Without the strength of a real payoff or the necessary elements sewn throughout to churn the brain, it winds up a confused, confounded conundrum that never satisfies.
There are some good moments in the film, so it isn’t a total waste, and Thora Birch really does manage to give a performance greater than the film she is in, but it ultimately isn’t enough to help "Dark Corners" reach beyond its failings.
Oh, and stealing one of my favorite scenes from the criminally underrated "Exorcist III" doesn’t help. Fans of that film will know exactly what I am talking about.
Overall Score - out of