Originally titled Cold Earth, Frank Falco's 2008 indy thriller has been re-titled Dark Secrets and released straight to DVD though the efforts of MTI. So what's the movie about? The film tells the story of a famous couple, Daryl Van Dyke (Gary Daniels) and his wife Lori (Kate Thurlwell), who are horrified to find out that their young daughter has been kidnapped. The cops, lead by Detective Farrell (Steven Elliott) and Detective Radcliff (Ben Shockley) are called in and they figure she's been snatched by a serial killer who has been operating in the area for some time now. As the investigation continues and the Van Dykes become more involved in it, however, it becomes more and more obvious that there's something more unusual afoot here than just the serial killer angle.
Dark Secrets toys around with some interesting ideas. By making the victims celebrities it manages to add an interesting layer of subtext to the picture and this is something that the script exploits fairly cleverly in a few spots. As the investigation overtones clue after clue and things begin to look more and more dire, we have to wonder if it is the serial killer at work here or if it's possibly a deranged fan or maybe a member of the Van Dyke family's staff who are responsible. A few clues point us in the right direction, but a few more are thrown in to keep us guessing up until the final reveal at the end of the picture. As far as the writing goes, Dark Secrets is quite good. It moves at a deliberate, even slow, pace but this isn't so much a bad thing as it allows the characters and the situations to be properly set up and the strong opening sequence, which does provide some insight into how this is all going to play out, does a decent job of hooking us.
That said, Dark Secrets has some problems. There are a couple of spots that definitely feel like padding. These could have been trimmed to tighten up the pace here and there and this could have made for a more exciting picture. There are also a couple of awkward performances. Gary Daniels, best known for his string of B-grade action movies, is decent enough in the lead but his chemistry with Kate Thurlwell feels a little unnatural, almost forced in spots. Neither give bad performances here, but they don't quite mesh together. Elliott and Shockley, as the cops, deliver average efforts and aren't bad when all things are considered, but again, they're not completely convincing. There are spots where they feel just slightly miscast.
For a low budget film, the picture is quite well shot. The cinematography by Kit Fraser elevates the film a fair bit and there's quite a bit of obvious spit and polish been applied to the visuals. There are some clever transitions in the editing department that keep things moving along nicely despite the aforementioned slower spots, though the film falls short in the soundtrack department as it relies on a score that sounds more like something you'd hear in an old radio play than a thriller. The end result is a mixed bag of a movie, which benefits from a strong script but is taken down a notch or two by its fairly obvious flaws. Writer/director Falco has definitely got some talent, it's obvious during parts of this film. Maybe next time, with a bit more of a budget to work with and a stronger cast to shoot, he'll turn in something a little more memorable than this fairly average low budget thriller.
The anamorphic widescreen 2.35.1 transfer isn't going to blow anyone away. First of all, it's interlaced and some pretty heavy effects are noticeable right off the bat if you don't have your hardware configured to take care of that. Second of all, the colors are a bit wonky. Some scenes look really hot, with washed out white looking skin tones devoid of most detail, with others are dark and murky. The movie was shot on DV so it doesn't quite have the look and feel of a production shot on film, but the inconsistencies in the transfer are definitely noticeable. That said, some scenes look perfectly fine, so we wind up with a transfer that's really all over the place. It's watchable enough, even at its worst, but it's far from great.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is of decent enough quality. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and while there isn't a whole lot of channel separation worth noting, some left to right and right to left directional effects can be noticed in a few of the more active scenes. There are no alternate language dubs or subtitles provided for the movie.
The disc includes a very basic static menu, and a trailer for the feature. Though the film is broken up into chapter stops, there is no chapter selection menu anywhere to be found.
A mediocre movie, Dark Secrets receives a mediocre release from MTI, with an almost barebones presentation and a problematic transfer that does the film no favors. The film is worth a rent for thriller fans thanks to some clever plot devices, but it's hard to recommend it as a purchase.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.