Judge Gordon Sullivan prefers his reality to be bright orange.
There are fates worse than death.
I love an indie film with a good idea, and Dark Reality sounds like just the right thing: take the typical post-Saw slasher formula of a bunch of women trapped by a maniac, but instead of focusing on the killer or those who hunt him, focus on the trapped women. Telling the story of the victims by sticking with them sounds like an excellent way to produce dread and add a twist to a tired horror formula. I didn't actually see Dark Reality, but reviews are pretty mixed about how well it succeeded. What I can tell you, though, is that when director Chris Kazmier decided to film a sequel, A Darker Reality, he took the interesting idea of his first movie and married it to a bunch of detective/serial killer clichés.
The Ghost (Daniel Baldwin, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man) has killed eighty-five women, and he's being pursued by a detective (James C. Burns, The Trap) and a psychiatrist (Sonny Doench, Remember the Daze). While the legal forces are trying to stop The Ghost, the women he keeps drugged in his lair attempt to take on their captor.
A Darker Reality has three parts to it, all of which interweave throughout the excruciating 90-minute running time. The first part is the detective stuff. Think of the worst detective show you've ever seen on syndication late at night—A Darker Reality makes that look like Shakespeare. The idea that The Ghost is so smooth that he's evaded capture despite killing eighty-five women either makes him a criminal mastermind deserving of a medal, or it makes our detective/psychiatrist duo the most horrible examples of law enforcement ineptitude ever. Even if you can swallow that little bit of silliness, the whole investigative angle is so pathetically ham-fisted that there's no way to dig these detective types out of their hole.
Since there are detectives, we've got to have a killer to catch, and the second of the film's three parts includes those moments with The Ghost. For those into this sort of thing, these scenes might be the only redeeming parts of the movie—and by "this sort of thing," I mean directors finding inventive ways to torture women, cause that's pretty much all that The Ghost is good for. In the film's opening moments, we already have a naked woman trussed up in some kind of cross between a survivalist and a guy into Japanese rope bondage. It gets worse from there. It's not so much the gore (since the film is low-budget and lots of it is shot in darkness so we can't see much), but more the fact that someone sat around thinking, "How can I degrade women in new ways on film?" There are certainly more sadistic films out there, but A Darker Reality goes a bit farther than many films of this ilk.
Finally, we get the perspective of the victims. This is another case where a good idea is murdered by shoddy execution. The idea of focusing on the victims, letting their knowledge be our knowledge, their terror our terror is a sound one. However, it's obvious that more time and energy went into figuring out how to torture these women than went into making them anything like three dimensional characters. Instead of being real people afraid for their lives, they're stereotypical at best, and horrible caricatures at worst. The writing isn't solid enough to make us care about any of the victims despite the time we spend with them. On the flip side, they're not obnoxious enough to make us root for The Ghost.
The film isn't helped much by this DVD release. The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks okay for the source material, but detail isn't particularly strong, and considering the number of dark or night scenes, black levels are not consistent enough. The 5.1 Dolby surround track sounds okay—the occasional metal music cues sound especially good—but the film mostly sticks to the center channel for most of its running time. The film's man extra is a set of deleted scenes that runs a little over 12 minutes. Nothing earth-shattering is presented, but the material cut is no worse than what made it in. The film's trailer is also included.
To be fair, Daniel Baldwin has the chops to make The Ghost at least decently acted. I can't recommend that even his most diehard fans watch the film for his performance, but it's a bright spot in an otherwise dim film.
A Darker Reality is barrel-scrapping "horror" at its worst. It's long on ideas about how to torture women, but short on pretty much everything else. That includes a coherent plot, decent acting, compelling characters, or a satisfying conclusion. Worth a rental for masochists, but otherwise avoid.
There are fates worse than death, like sitting through this movie. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Phase 4 Films
• Deleted Scenes
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