A not-great but surprisingly watchable little horror/thriller from Canada, of all places, The Dark Hours is half survival horror (think Funny Games) and half psychological horror (think twist ending) that speeds through its scant 80-minute running time with no muss, no fuss, and a surprisingly watchable demeanor. It's not a flick likely to land on any gorehound's list of underrated classics, but for what is is, a fairly compelling little chiller, The Dark Hours is watchable enough -- provided you're a serious horror buff who'd normally sit through anything. (And you usually do.)
Kate Greenhouse (Earth: Final Conflict) plays the brilliant yet casually unkind psychiatrist Samantha Goodman. Recipient of some rather unpleasant news (she has an inoperable brain tumor) and doctor to a rapist who claims to be "cured," Dr. Goodman certainly has her hands full -- which is why she decides to join her husband and her sister on a weekend trip to an isolated cabin.
If already you're wondering why the doctor's husband and the doctor's sister are spending time alone in a cabin, then you already have a pretty good idea as to where The Dark Hours is headed. The three characters converge at the cabin, and there's much in the Suspicion and Glaring department, but overall things are pretty civil.
At least until a sniveling little gun-toting malcontent shows up at the front door. And that's not even the worst of it. Seems the nervous invader is the new sidekick Harlan Pyne, and if you need me to tell you that Harlan Pyne is the aforemention looney bin resident, then you definitely know where The Dark Hours is headed.
Is it all a tumor-induced, yet strangely realistic, dream sequence -- or has this ferocious psycho somehow escaped from the hospital and tracked his abrasive doctor down for some high-end vengeance? Well, you'll have to make it to the final frames to see what's up, but the journey is more compelling than the finalé, trust me.
Special mention is due to leading lady Greenhouse and Aidan Devine as the strangely captivating psycho. Both actors bring a lot to a potentially skimpy party, and their performances to a lot to elevate The Dark Hours beyond "almost instantly forgettable."
Video: The Freestyle DVD release comes in a fairly clean widescreen (non-anamorphic) transfer. There's a slight amount of grain in some of the darker sequences, but for a Canadian indie thriller, the movie looks pretty solid.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0, with optional Spanish subtitles. Audio quality is perfectly fine for such a chat-heavy, one-room psycho-thriller.
Extras: There's a 58-minute collection of behind-the-scenes material that's mostly "fly on the wall" video footage. It's basically a long series of on-location preparations, run-throughs, and rehearsals -- and therefore not all that terribly interesting.
Director Paul Fox and producer Brent Barclay contribute a feature-length audio commentary, and it's a somewhat dry-yet-still-informative chat track. Fox starts off by bemoaning the lack of Repulsion / Don't Look Now style of modern horror movies, which I assume is meant to imply that Fox aspires to be the next Roman Polanski or Nicolas Roeg. (Fox's movie isn't half-bad, but that's kind of a stretch.) Still, those who hope to make a low-budget psycho-thriller in Canada might find a lot of interesting tidbits within.
Also included are an alternate ending and the Dark Hours trailer.
On one hand we have the "trapped in a cabin by a violent lunatic" material; on the other we have the "follow the psychological clues" conceit that seems to inhabit every other horror movie these days. Mix 'em together into one fairly quick-moving (and short) indie thriller and you get The Dark Hours, a quietly interesting, if not all that unique, little rental.