North American Motion Pictures // 2006 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 13th, 2009
More like "dark comedy reel."
Horror movie fan and general loser Adam Waltz (Edward Furlong, Terminator 2) lucks out, when he wins a contest for a walk-on part on an atrocious Z-grade pirate movie. Even more dumbfounding is his ability to parlay that brief bit of screen time into a larger role. Of course part of that has to do with the fact his co-starts are getting systematically killed off and occasionally posthumously dismembered. It's a real bummer, but Adam goes with the flow especially when he's got a beautiful B-movie queen enamored with him.
Still, there's a killer on the loose and the death and de-limbing may be linked to the case of a murdered starlet decades ago. When Adam starts seeing the ghost of said deceased starlet, he realizes his newfound fame will come with some righteous supernatural baggage.
Sounds pretty straightforward, huh? Masked killer on the rampage, a link to a long ago crime, some death scenes, a few nipple shots -- but what makes Dark Reel stand out is the comic touch woven into the slasher formula. You could probably get away with calling Dark Reel a black comedy, as the light moments nearly counterbalance the dark stuff. The writing is clever and delivered with a not-taking-themselves-too-seriously vibe from Furlong, Tony Todd, and Lance Henriksen, who I'm sure was just grateful not to be cast in yet another killer space robot movie.
There's a central mystery at the core of the film and it's what drives the suspense. The reveal isn't bad, connects well with the history embraced by the film, and the identity of the killer is a semi-surprise. The death scenes are uneven in their ingenuity, but the resulting crime scenes are nice and gory (e.g. the remains of the first victim found on the boat), and it all builds to a frantic, satisfying climax.
Overall, however, I liked the comedy elements more than the horror. The former surprised me and actually added a new dimension to a genre not known for doing anything new. There just seemed to be more of an energy to the whole affair.
A no-frills DVD: the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 stereo audio mix make for a satisfactory, if non-noteworthy, technical presentation. No extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: North American Motion Pictures
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R