I will open in a rather brazen manner and state that Loren W. Lepre’s ‘Dark Military’ pretty much nails the perfect-festival-film-formula (should such a thing exist!).
Clocking in at a svelte 85 minutes, the film takes us on a Halloween rampage courtesy of ‘The Dark Military’, a rogue group of soldiers who aim to put the horror back into Halloween by manner of a twisted game show which see innocent victims hunted by said group in a two-hour time window; all the whilst the general public can log in and get off on the carnage from the comfort of their living rooms via the internet.
The police are forced to watch helplessly as the location of the hunt is ‘off the grid’ and the two-hour time window through which the game will run is not long enough to use any high-tech form of tracking. In a cruel irony the details in the broadcast, clearly not suitable for public consumption, are the only clues to the whereabouts of any survivors and therefore cannot be blocked. Indeed, the notion that as a world we have lost influence and control we are only able to watch as tragedy unfolds is a theme which underpins the films concept.
With that said, lucky for us in this fictitious context, there’s nothing left to do but watch as one by one the contestants fall as the hunters relentlessly pursue their quarry.
Whilst the plot is pretty one dimensional, and to be honest the characters to, the film instead pools its creative efforts into the mediums through which the ‘game show’ is ‘filmed’ and ‘viewed’. A host of different media types are used to break up the carnage, and dependent on whose perspective we are watching from (be it the police, media, viewers etc), we share the media format appropriate to them; as a result, we get a constantly rotating set of perspectives from live-cams to news reports and even the ‘Dark Military’s own surveillance network’. Whilst this is by no means a found footage movie, the changing perspectives connect you to the movies content in a way that traditional filming would not.
Whilst keen horror fans will no doubt draw parallels to the films plot with other similar titles such as ‘Battle Royale and cult hit ‘Slashers’, the film develops a fresh identity as a result; as well as being consistently engaging.
Indeed, engagement and entertainment are the order of the day here. You will no doubt have a blast with this movie! The acting is solid throughout, and again, whilst the characters don’t really offer anything beyond genre stereotypes, the script gives them enough material for you to decide whether you will route for them or be glad of their demise when their time comes!
There was one odd character, a chef (who I believe as supposed to have a mental handicap of some description), who bellows gibberish at all he encounters. I didn’t really get on with his bizarre comic relief which I felt was at odds with the serious nature of the rest of the film; not a deal breaker by any means but still it added the cringe factor to an otherwise sleek production.
Looking past this however, ‘Dark Military’ offers up an entertaining slab of condensed violence. Nothing too brutal (bar one scene) to make the films already contentious plot move into ‘bad taste territory’, but what the film lacks in graphic detail it makes up for in high body count. Still, being the bloodthirsty man, I am, I was hoping the film would go all out for a final bloodbath finale!
Overall, should this be on a roster at a festival near you be sure to highlight it. It will stand out simply on the merit that it is something a bit different. Whilst stripped right back the film could be considered a multi-protagonist slasher film, it certainly deserves to reside in its own subgenre, and one which, when packaged as effectively as this, is a welcome relief from the cliched ‘Haunting of…’ movies typical of this time of year.