A conflicting range of synopsis left me intrigued by the nature of 'The Dark Hour'. Some peg it as sci-fi, others a zombie movie, whilst from some sources it is described as a claustrophobic psychological thriller; I can see why it is open to such interpretation, and I guess, as unhelpful as it is, I would say that the movie incorporates elements of all.
Rather predictably though, the phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none' is never truer as whilst the movie was enjoyable enough, I wouldn't really call it an essential watch!
The plot is possibly the strongest element of the movie, and when you consider the micro budget, it does an excellent job of drawing you into the apocalyptic world in which the movie is set. The majority of the film is set in an underground network of tunnels in which the few survivors of a nuclear war struggle for survival. In addition to the to the expected pressures of diminishing food and water supplies the survivors are ever vigilant for the remaining, dangerous 'infected' - the 'strangers' (basically zombies), and spirit type creatures, 'invisibles', which seem attracted to the group. Every now and then they must endure a cold hour in which a freezing mist seems to engulf the compound. Eventually things get a little much for them and they must prepare themselves for a trip up top.
The plot itself, once you move aside all of the mystery surrounding the situation is pretty straight forward. Basically we see a group of characters surviving and preparing for the resupply. The pace of the movie is kept moving throughout by showing us little snippets of the back story via propaganda videos, tense moments as the group become under attack from the range of enemies described above, and a little bit of character development too. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into these set pieces as they keep the movie interesting when, essentially, not a lot is really going on. The use of camcorder footage was an interesting way of elaborating on the characters too, cutting down on the pace sapping dialogue and explanation which can often plague similar low budget releases.
Whilst from this point of view, a limited explanation of things keeps things interesting, it is worth noting, however, that the movie does have an annoying habit of introducing a lot of questions whilst delivering few answers. The thought provoking ending, which appears to have forum posters buzzing, is also a little shallow I thought, as whilst it is an interesting concept it still doesn't really give me the answers I needed to explain the movie effectively.
Limited too, and a disappointing element for me, is the quality of the effects in the movie. In the beginning much of the information and content regarding the strangers and invisibles was kept to simple snapshots and eerie camera angles, both only hinting at the presence of the threat. This added a cold chilling atmosphere to the movie, however, once the subtlety ended, and both these creatures were shown, I wasn't left particularly impressed. An overuse of lame make-up, and excessively obvious cheap CGI, only served to erode the level in which I became immersed in the plot. Such shots had effectively removed any atmosphere by the 45 minute mark, turning the movie into a pure survival-esk movie, despite the chilling start.
Overall, I found this movie to be an excellent example of how a decent level of imagination and attention to detail can really carry a limited budget a long way. Indeed it was only the poor quality of the effects in the which highlighted the constraints in which the movie was filmed under, which for me swayed my overall impression of the movie; a excellent depth of plot, character and scenario which was killed by the lack of subtlety shown in the latter half of the movie. For people who like some unanswered questions to ponder over, this movie would be perfect, for those looking for a consistent chiller, won't find it here. I don't wish to condemn the movie, but it really is going to be a hit or miss one watcher.