Gore doesn't frighten Judge Cynthia Boris. No, she scared of psychological tension, unseen menaces, that sort of stuff. Come on...what's so scary if you can't even see it?
In 1984, a hidden crime became a deep dark secret between friends. Five years later, on Halloween night 1989, the secret got out. Here is the actual footage of the events of October 21 and November 1, 1989, when the group returned to the scene of the crime and came face to face with their wicked past.—DVD Box Notes
Gore, gore, gore, the messier the better. That seems to be the motto of horror moviemakers these days. With films like Saw banging down the box office, it's easy to understand why more and more filmmakers are going down that gruesome path. But instead of playing "can you bloody top this," writer/director Slater Kane decided to go the less-is-more route. Come along while we investigate the spooks, the scares, the nightmares you'll find hidden In the Dark.
Facts of the Case
In 1984, a fire was started in the Ridgely Institute for Mental Defectives, killing one young girl and badly burning another named Lizzie Duncan. Before the fire, Duncan was the brunt of numerous jokes and was often tormented by the teens who worked as orderlies at the hospital. As years passed, she became more of a local legend—a dangerous psychopath who would rip your head off if you looked at her the wrong way. In 1989, a group of teens returned to the burned-out hospital with the idea of having a little Halloween fun. With video cameras documenting their every move and nothing but flashlights for light, they played a game of hide and seek—but they weren't the only ones hiding in the musty, burned-out hull of the old Ridgely Institute.
In an unusual piece of direction, the entire movie is made up of film from three video cameras. The most innocuous is a documentary camera filming interviews with the staff of the new Ridgely Hospital that sits just a few yards away from the old burned out building. The second camera is the one the teens bring along to record their antics (sexual and otherwise). The third is the security camera in the building itself. These three sources are married together to tell the tale of what happened that Halloween night in 1989.
Unlike traditional horror movies where you come to identify with the protagonist, there's no one in this group that you'd want to be, and that adds realism to the story. There's no prom queen, no jock; just a group of pot-smoking, loud-mouthed, juvenile delinquents who are looking to get laid. Much of the dialogue is nothing more than meaningless banter from two or three people talking at the same time, which perplexed me at first. The longer I watched, however, I realized that what I was seeing was similar to a dozen different "realty" programs on MTV with teenagers who have nothing to say and saying it anyway. After awhile, I realized that this ad-libbed chaos was really part of the grand sound scheme of the film—and the sound is what upped the scare quotient for me. The echoing slam of a metal door. A well-placed bar of music. The cacophony of screams and shouts when the teens are surprised by vermin of alls kinds. Balancing out the high noise level are the long stretches of silence that come with the surveillance footage. These scenes are nearly black and white and totally silent, giving the feel of a large, mute monster hovering in the dark. These were some of the scariest scenes and they reminded me of the original Night of the Living Dead in tone and style.
Though there is a small amount of gore in the movie, it's not where the scares are coming from. The scares are in the anticipation, the expectation, and in not seeing what's standing right next to the teens at any given moment. Personally, I didn't miss seeing a person murdered in detailed, living color; the shadowy and distant images were frightening enough for me.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are a few stumbles for this young indie project. First, I found the interviews with the current hospital staff to be wholly unbelievable. This exposition in the first half hour of the film really slows the pace, as do the scenes of the boys ramping up for their fun night of sex and scares. Once they climb the fence into the asylum, I was hooked, so I have to think that's where the movie should have started.
Second, many of the scenes in the film are so dark you can't see what's going on. Granted, some of the darkness is part of the appeal of the film, but there were scenes that left me so confused by who did what to whom, I had a hard time keeping up.
And lastly, I was looking forward to the behind the scenes featurette—but really there's nothing here. It's hard to follow, and it goes against the plot setup that this movie is based on real footage. The filmmakers did such a great job with the accompanying website and "factual" materials, it's a shame to break the illusion with this featurette.
Raucous juvenile delinquents get what they deserve while investigating the urban legend of the murderous Lizzie Duncan. It's Jackass meets The Celebrity Paranormal Project. If either of those two shows interests you, then you should totally check out In the Dark.
I find In the Dark guilty of making me close the drapes in my living room for fear of seeing Lizzie Duncan pop up in the window!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Megalomania Films
• Behind the Scenes Footage
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