Eye For Film >> Movies >> Darkness Reigns (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Emilia Rolewicz
The title Darkness Reigns does not sound out of place in a list of conventional horror films from recent years - Insidious, The Conjuring, Sinister and Paranormal Activity all allude to a mysterious ominous presence. Anyone familiar with these films knows that this is usually just faux-enigma, masking the tired plot of a family in a house haunted by a seemingly unstoppable demon that asks will the family survive? Will we even care if they do? Darkness Reigns attempts to play on these tropes, expressing an awareness that a successful horror film can be created despite a lack of imagination, with one character saying an “actual haunted location” is what sells tickets.
The film opens with Daniel (Zachary Mooren), a breakthrough documentarian, about to introduce his first feature. Before doing so, he privately talks into his phone’s front camera in cryptic clichés: “Fake it til you make it, die while you try.” While doing so his eyes also meet ours, the first indication that Darkness Reigns seeks to explore the closely intertwined relationship between horror director and spectator. When his feature rolls, it takes on the style of a popular subgenre, the found footage film. Daniel is capturing behind the scenes action on a horror movie, Defanatus Soul, which is taking place in a supposedly haunted hotel.
An unexplainable demonic force begins to haunt them with campy jump-scares, and stutters their technology, which escalates to the cast and crew being murdered. Soon, only Daniel and a few others are left, including a disillusioned medium (Peter Mayer) whose lack of willingness and ability to help adds a layer of suspicion to the story. Strange too is Daniel’s camera being the only untampered-with piece of technology; the death of Defanatus Soul’s progress breathing life into his own documentary.
The eye of Daniel’s camera persists like that of the spectator’s, continuously expecting and seeking out gore. It becomes a staring contest between the audience and his camera - who will look away from the horror first? Darkness Reigns explores this interesting relationship, however, the effects that the camera persists in showing are too obviously fake looking. This is particularly jarring when paired with the found footage style.
Darkness Reign's use of the modern-day popcorn devices of a demonic entity and found-footage approach is intended to show these trends are a creative dead end, as evidenced by Daniel's dissatisfaction with his final product. While the film is not completely soulless, it does have hammy scares and scenes, including a demon that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sixties Doctor Who episode. These cheesier elements clash with writer/director Andrew P Jones’ attempts at solemn soliloquising on hellish business deals. The film ultimately leaves you unsure about how seriously you should take it and how much you should be laughing with it or, at it?
The film will be available on VoD on July 10Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2018