Lionsgate // 2008 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 7th, 2008
Don't get off on the wrong floor.
Straight out of Finland -- ghosts, demons, autism, and heavy metal combine for a one of the more interesting and out-there haunted hospital movies to come around in quite some time.
A young girl named Sarah has been grappling with a mental disability that has befuddled her doctors and saddened her father (Noah Huntley). One day, while in one particular ward, things get weird: Sarah, her father and a handful of bystanders are suddenly sucked into an alternate version of the hospital, a place void of life, yet oppressed with some seriously sinister mojo.
As our heroes attempt to navigate their new haunts, some badass presences start manifesting, starting with a ghost, then leading up to monstrous demon things, intent on claiming Sarah for themselves, and wiping out anyone who stands in the way.
I suppose fans of the Finnish heavy metal scene would be familiar with the band Lordi, but this was my first exposure to them. See, Dark Floors is also known as "The Lordi Motion Picutre," as in the official film of the band. These guys are well-known European rockers that perform their live shows and shoot their music videos in full "monster" costuming. That is, each band member is clad in intricate, detailed foam outfits, complete with masks and make-up, and are never seen without their costumes. It's actually quite intriguing, because the prop effects they've crafted are well-done (according to that most lauded of informational portals -- Wikipedia -- Mr. Lordi, the band's lead, takes two to three hours to be outfitted).
These guys (and girl) are transposed directly from the stage to screen, appearing in the film in their original monster costumes, and popping up to torment the human beings when the script calls for it.
Now that may sound like a gimmicky way to figure out how to insert heavy metal musicians into a movie to appeal to fans but, if any narrative structure will work, it's the "haunted hospital featuring ever-increasing evil bastards" setup. And in the interest of full disclosure, I had no idea what Lordi was before going into this. Subtract that gimmick from the proceedings, and you have a cool monster movie, featuring well-done CGI and some outstanding practical make-up and costuming work. With the Lordi angle, yeah, it's bit cheesy, but only a bit -- Dark Floors still stands on its own as a decent horror film...
...even if it is a tad on the obtuse side. The actual storyline involving the psychic girl tends to get weighed down by its own cryptic storytelling and the culmination is predictably ambiguous and subjective, but there's lots of nifty stuff to carry the thing forward. And by "nifty stuff," I mean the effects. When the monsters show up and attack, it looks great, well-shot and scary, and the violence they unleash (punching through an elevator floor, ripping out some poor sap's heart) is bodacious. The highlight of the monster shenanigans: the finale, featuring Mr. Lordi himself, materializing in a parking garage with huge demon wings and a frown. The sequence works well, and the CGI employed to support his big unveiling are terrific. In fact, pretty much all the visual imagery is rock-solid, even the ghost stuff.
Lionsgate released a good disc -- the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is impressive as is the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. Extras: commentary by director Pete Riski and Mr. Lordi, a couple of Lordi music videos, the surreal world premiere press conference featuring the band members in their full-on get-ups and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Fans of the band will enjoy seeing these guys in their own movie, but I'd give this a thumbs-up for anyone interested in creature-centric horror.
Mr. Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Videos
* Premiere Footage