LEFT IN DARKNESS
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Produced by Stephen J. Cannell, Michael J. Dubelko
Written by Philip Daay and Jane Whitney
Director of Photograpy Matt Heckerling
Music by Corey A. Jackson
Cast: Monica Keena, David Anders, Tim Thomerson
2006/88 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Home Entertainment DVD
I've discussed this before, but I'll say it again; Movies are fiction. (Please take a moment to react if this is news to you.) And although they are fiction, most films create their own reality and introduce rules within that reality and we, the audience, are asked to suspend our disbelief and enter this world. These films usually stick to the rules that are laid before us. (Although, some directors, like David Lynch, enjoying playing with rules of reality.) LEFT IN DARKNESS is a low-budget horror film which initiates a complicated set of rules and then tends to run all over the place.
Celia (Monica Keena) has had a difficult life. Her mother died in childbirth and she was raised by her Grandfather (Tim Thomerson), who has also recently died. Also, Celia has a history of speaking to people who aren't there. For Celia's 21st birthday, her friend, Rachel (Tarah Paige), is determined that Celia is going to have fun. Rachel drags Celia to a fraternity party at a local college. There, Celia is introduced to Doug (Chris Engen), who, learning Celia has turned 21, gives her several drinks. Soon, Celia begins to feel very weird and passes out.
When Celia awakens, she is groggy and finds herself in a deserted bathroom. However, things get even weirder when she turns to see her own body on the floor. Celia has died and has left her body. She wanders through the house and finds that it's deserted. When she ventures outside, she is attacked by bizarre, zombie-like people. Suddenly, Celia is joined by Donovan (David Anders), the ghost-like boy whom she's spoken to her whole life. Donovan explains that Celia has died and that in two hours, she will go to either heaven or hell. However, she must survive that time, or her soul will be lost.
I'll just cut to the chase on this one -- LEFT IN DARKNESS is one of the most convoluted and confusing movies that I've ever seen. I think that there's an interesting premise buried somewhere in the movie and it takes a ballsy movie to kill the main character and star within the first 20 minutes, but the movie bites off way more than I could chew.
I don't know, maybe I simply wasn't in the mood for a movie where I had to map out a complex series of rules, but LEFT IN DARKNESS introduces a new whammy every few minutes -- Celia's dead; Celia's in a sanctuary (a frat house of all places); Celia can leave the house, but the "Soul Eaters" are out there; Celia's Grandfather is here as well, but he's acting all weird; Celia appears to be alone in the house, but the party is still going on; There's something bad in the basement; and on and on. Once Celia dies the movie is essentially about one woman trapped in a house with a few other characters, so screenwriters Philip Daay and Jane Whitney probably felt like they had to keep all of this exposition occurring so that the characters would have something to talk about, but it simply makes things confusing and overbearing, making this like a supernatural version of THE MATRIX.
With a small cast and a bewildering story, it's up to the actors to carry the film, but things aren't so hot in that department either. As I'm not Kim Dubuisson, I rarely discuss the appearance of actresses, but the way Monica Keena looks in this film was simply distracting. Her lips and her breasts stand out on her petite frame (and her questionable wardrobe doesn't help), make her quite awkward looking. Also, she spends the entire film reacting as opposed to acting. David Anders (who looks like a German version of Ethan Embry) is OK as Donovan, but he plays his part a bit too coolly, turning inscrutable into unlikable.
LEFT IN DARKNESS comes from director Steven R. Monroe and producer Steven J. Cannell, who previously teamed-up to brings us IT WAITS. As with that film (which was essentially a rip-off of JEEPERS CREEPERS), LEFT IN DARKNESS relies too much on hokey instead of creativity. Again, the central premise of the film, where someone is trapped in a dangerous version of purgatory, is interesting, but the movie constantly trips over itself and reminded me of someone imitating Bruce Joel Rubin (JACOB'S LADDER, GHOST, BRAINSTORM).
LEFT IN DARKNESS dies and comes back on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. As with the other Stephen J. Cannell productions, LEFT IN DARKNESS looks very good on DVD. The image is very sharp and clear, showing basically no grain and no defects from the source material. For a low-budget film, the lighting is quite good and the image is neither too dark or too bright. However, due to the abundance of lighting effects, there was some video noise at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides acceptable dialogue and sound effects. The musical cues and crowd noises perk up the surround sound, as do the creature effects, but otherwise the mix is rather mediocre.
The LEFT IN DARKNESS DVD carries a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Steven R. Monroe and line producer John Duffy. This isn't a remarkable commentary, but it will hold your interest, as the two discuss the production in detail. They make many comments related to the challenge of shooting a movie on a modest budget in 18 days. "Inside the Darkness" (14 minutes) is a making of featurette where Cannell states, "If we didn't scare you with this movie, we've failed." Newsflash...you failed. Cannell is joined by various members of the cast and crew commenting on the making of the film including casting, filming, and production design. "My 21st Birthday" (2 minutes) is simply a random series of comments from the cast and crew as they share stories about their own 21st birthdays.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©