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Dark (Movie Review)

Dark (Movie Review)
09.17.2015by: Cody Hamman
7 10

PLOT: Stuck alone in her New York City apartment during the Northeast blackout of 2003, a woman cowers from noises coming from outside but truly has more to fear inside.

REVIEW: Directed by Nick Basile from a screenplay by GUT writer/director Elias and executive produced by master of horror Joe Dante, DARK would be accurately described as a psychological thriller, but that's also a label that may hinder some viewers' enjoyment of the film. Some who go into it expecting thrills may grow impatient as they wonder, "When is something going to happen?" DARK is such a slow burn, the best way to look at it may be as a drama, a character study of a very damaged woman. A woman named Kate, played by Whitney Able.

Basile previously made a documentary called AMERICAN CARNY, and DARK often feels like a documentary as well. The way the film is shot, it's like we're voyeurs spying on Kate's life. We watch her make her way around New York City as she goes through mundane, everyday routines, and through it all there is a very odd quality about her. A strange detachment. The more time we spend with her, the more it becomes obvious that she is deeply troubled.

Kate is even distancing herself from her girlfriend Leah, played by Alexandra Breckenridge. Breckenridge doesn't have a lot of screen time but does great work in her scenes, and the way she handles the relationship moments feels very real.

Leah exits the picture to go on a weekend business trip, leaving Kate behind in their apartment. This film is a period piece, and the day of Leah's departure just happens to be August 14th, 2003. The day a blackout struck eight states in the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S., as well as Ontario, Canada. Alone in a New York City without power, vulnerable and afraid, Kate has a mental breakdown.

The period setting is a selling point to those who remember the 2003 blackout, and the film does a solid job capturing the atmosphere of that particular power outage. For the most part this story could have played out during any random blackout, but that one in '03 had a heightened feeling of paranoia about it, and that paranoia surely doesn't help with Kate's condition.

DARK is largely a one woman show that's carried on the shoulders of Able. Breckenridge, Michael Eklund, and Brendan Sexton III do great work in supporting roles, but this is truly a showcase of Able's abilities. She's an actress I had never seen in anything before, and I was very impressed by what she does here, in a movie that was not what I was expecting it to be. 

I thought this would be more about a woman hiding in her apartment from dangerous intruders, and while that aspect does come into play once Kate is at her lowest point, Basile and Elias have instead crafted something that's reminiscent of Roman Polanski's REPULSION and THE TENANT, both films about characters going mad in their apartments. Kate's greatest enemy is her own mind.

The story and pace of DARK may be frustrating to viewers who are hoping for action and scares, but if you go along for the ride it's a viewing experience that rewards you with the chance to watch an actress deliver an incredible performance. Able is captivating, and the movie wouldn't work as well, or at all, if it didn't have a lead so flawless.

Extra Tidbit: DARK will premiere at the Oldenburg International Film Festival in Germany this Saturday, September 19th.

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