The ever-popular Casper Van Dien starts in ‘Darkness Reigns’, a slightly better than average POV horror about a demonic attack on a group of film-makers who make an ill-fated attempt to make a horror film on location of an ‘actual’ haunted hotel.
The film opens as our ever vigilant POV camera team are tasked to record all the ‘behind the scenes’ footage for a pre-production horror film which the director hopes will be a hit. The aforementioned Casper Van plays himself as the productions lead ‘name’ and with him on board the film crew are all assembled for the beginnings of the shoot. Avoiding the usual awkwardness of the first 30 minutes of many POV horror ‘Darkness Reigns’ does well to engage us in a brief mocumentary of film making, we see make-up and effects applied, we here the differences in opinions about the credibility and marketing of horror film making and of course we get a brief look into the films location before the shit hits the fan; of course all of this is really just introducing us to the characters we might care about, and building up a little bit of tension.
The acting is refreshingly convincing, and the characters (who admittedly aren’t exactly layered like onions) are diverse enough so that you can at least tell them apart. The scenes with Van Dien are especially amusing as he plays a caricature of himself not giving a shit about being in the film and then turning on the charm when needed, and the rest of the ‘film crew’ including the movies ‘celebrity’ medium tow the line as needed with their own quips and quirks. Whilst the film doesn’t indulge, the meta context gives the film a beneficial tongue in cheek feel to it.
The initial demon attack and the massacre scene which follows kick starts the films second act and introduces the peril which lasts until the films finale. This scene is one of the best in the movie, and whilst practical effects are few and far between are some cool death scenes – again a relief in a sub-genre of film making where typically nothing happens. Its not terribly graphic, but it at least gives gravitas to the films demonic antagonist.
Beyond this, however, the film does return to a more typical POV formula. Plenty of corridor shaky cam, the squint inducing night-vision and torchlight filming documenting the doppler effect of a group of actors potentially involved in a screaming competition. There is a rather out of place scene in the hotel bar which more than a tip of the hat to Kubrick’s Shining, and some bleeding walls now that I think about it – indeed at this point I did wonder if the film was originally billed to be a spoof / homage of sorts (not that the marketing in anyway implies this). These scenes are passible by anyone’s standard, and whilst it might not be operating on high-functioning tier of psychological horror, you can’t escape the momentary panic of having your perspective staring down the dark elongated corridors waiting for something to jump you!
All was well and good until the end few scenes when we actually see the demon, standing proud, his deep voice resonating deeply in the films audio mix. If only what he was saying was of any note and his costume didn’t make him look like Harry Potter’s house Elf had made an application to join the Hellraiser franchise as a Cenobyte (albeit it a bit taller). I wasn’t that impressed to be honest and it certainly wasn’t as tense or creepy as the build-up implied.
Still, overall, for its brief 70-minute run time, I enjoyed myself. I was a bit taken back by the pantomime ending, but for what came before I would say that ‘Darkness Reigns’ might be worth a punt. It’s a fun film and out of VOD from July, 2018.