The words at the beginning of tho new Telefilm Canada horror film DARKEN tells the audience: DARKEN is the resting sanctuary for all souls – whatever that means. Darken is set in a bizarre, mysterious, and violent unknown world supposedly set with danger and death around every corner.
Mother Darken appears to be the God in some alternative universe or different dimension. Her high priestess, Clarity (Christine Horne) and oddball looking and acting assistant, Martin (Ari Millen) accuse a member of their religious sect of betrayal. When the betrayer admits her guilt, she is stabbed and pushed out a door out of this universe.
A nurse, Eve (Bea Santos) helps the wounded girl, but ends up entering DARKEN through a one-way door.
Eve finds a violent prison-like world of labyrinthine rooms, interconnected with no apparent rhyme or reason and no way of escape. If all this sounds weird and unbelievable – it is! As she fights for survival within this brutal place, she finds allies who are rebelling against the rule of a self-appointed religious despot who demands allegiance to the all-powerful god called “Mother Darken.” Eve and the exiles, as they are called must fight with everything they have if they are to have any hope of surviving the horrors Darken has in store for them. The exiles are told that they have to keep moving. But apparently, they are moving nowhere – and getting to nowhere fast. And again when one exile is wounded, Eve (humorously) says:” We need to move her now.”
The film plays like a children’s playground game adults that have forgotten to grow up indulge. The fight scenes are executed for more gore and violence that excitement. Lots of pain are inflicted on the wounded.
Olunike Adeliyi playing an exile, Kali deserves an acting award for the most over-acting performance in a movie this year. She demonstrates how to act with her eyeballs, nose, lips and grimaces. The dialogue is terribly silly: “Mother (Darken) is terribly upset!” “Whenever I turn my back, they always disobey me.” “Mother is so angry with us.” – being a few examples. The character Clarity is exceptionally good at giving orders and doing nothing. The exiles use lighters that they somehow have, to light their way in the darkness though none of them smoke.
Prior to the film’s theatrical release, the producers Shaftesbury had released an 11-part digital prequel series, Darken: Before the Dark on YouTube, taking audiences deep inside the fantastic otherworld of DARKEN. The audience is presented here with multiple points of entry on a range of platforms to build a world around the film. With DARKEN, audiences can watch the digital series, connect and discuss on social, immerse themselves via the VR experience, see the film on the big screen, or pre-order it to re-watch at home
DARKEN went on to win Best Science Fiction Feature at Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, Best Fantasy Feature at Motor City Nightmares International Film Festival, and won four awards at Blood In The Snow Festival including Best Director and Best Cinematography. Whatever all these awards mean, DARKEN is not a very good horror film – overacted, overdone, unbelievable story – a textbook case of maximum effort and minimum results. But DARKEN is recommended for its unintentional humour!