Dark Secrets a/k/a Cold Earth is a limp effort at a supernatural crime thriller that does very little right, and fails to hold the viewer's interest or even be particularly thrilling.
The story involves the apparent kidnapping of Dallas Van Dyke, the daughter of racecar driver Darryl Van Dyke (Gary Daniels) and actress Lori Kennedy (Kate Thurlwell). Detectives Jack Farrell (Steven Elliot) and Tom Radcliffe (Ben Shockley) are called in to investigate. Farrell is rather troubled. A few years ago his wife was killed in a car accident. Since then, he has thrown himself into his investigations, sometimes to an obsessive degree. Lately, he has been seeing visions of a little girl whose murder he was unable to solve. He is the classical troubled cop who just wants to find out the truth.
The investigation is stymied by the relative uncooperativeness of the Van Dykes, who both seem more interested in getting back to work and occasionally demanding that "something be done" than in acting like most parents do when their child has disappeared. Farrell and Radcliffe throw themselves into finding the girl regardless, though oftentimes their efforts do not seem to bear much logical connection to that goal. At one point, Farrell even finds a completely unrelated missing girl in an abandoned building, with no real explanation of either how she came to be there or how he found her. This is especially confusing as the audience is only given a few glimpses of Dallas at the beginning of the film, so every little girl we see is easily confused with her.
It soon becomes clear that the little girl who is haunting Farrell, and causing strange malfunctions in electronic equipment whenever he is near, is connected in some way with the missing Dallas. Farrell's girlfriend Rachel (Tina Barnes) certainly thinks so, and so takes him to visit a psychic friend, with results that can at best be described as mixed. Eventually, a chance meeting with the mother of a murdered girl and a little police brutality bring the driven detective the information he needs to solve the case, along with discovering the super secret twist ending which, though it is potentially interesting, ultimately falls flat.
Dark Secrets has lots of problems, and few bright spots to make up for them. The performances range from moderate to wooden to awful. Tina Barnes as Rachel is the most natural and effortless, and Steven Elliot as Farrell doesn't do too badly. Thurlwell and Daniels never come anywhere near convincing as the supposedly grieving parents of a missing child. They come off most often as mildly concerned or annoyed, but never frantic or despondent, as one might expect in the circumstances. In fact, no one seems to possess the sense of urgency that would seem natural in a child kidnapping case. This lack of urgency strikes such a false note, that it casts an unintended feeling of unreality or disbelief over the whole film.
Another defect of the film, which ties in tightly with the confusing plot and seeming randomness of events, is the lack of many actual scares or tense moments. This reviewer noted only one mildly effective minor jump scare through the duration. There were many moments that were clearly intended to be frightening. The overbearing, unsubtle score makes sure that the viewer is never in any doubt as to when they are supposed to be scared. Overwhelmingly, however, these moments are not even startling, including when a moldering hand reaches out of a grave (a la Carrie) to grab Farrell. The countless shots of ghostly little girls appearing in mirrors or dark corners do nothing to establish a sense of dread or danger, or even of mild discomfort. No sustained tension, or even its near approximation, is ever achieved.
Dark Secrets is a poorly executed, poorly acted, underwritten thriller that doesn't thrill. It never invests the viewer in the outcome, or maintains a sense of tension or excitement. It is confusing and at times tedious. The central idea of the film, which cannot be revealed without unacceptable spoilers, has significant potential, but is developed so ineptly that it fails to live up. Please skip this film.
The video here is generally good, though colors often wash out in bright light. This review is based on a check disc, however, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The sound is moderately good. Dialogue is generally clear, though it is muffled by background noise on occasion. This review is based on a check disc, however, so no comment can be made on the final product.
The only extra available on the check disc is an uninteresting, standard trailer.
Dark Secrets is an exercise in mediocrity. The central premise is interesting, but ineptly executed. The film feels thrown together, with pieces missing or put in the wrong place, which causes considerable confusion to the viewer. The acting is uninspired, and in some cases quite atrocious. The inexplicable lack of urgency or purpose in the main characters is so out of place that it makes it very difficult for the viewer to suspend disbelief and enjoy the film. There are too few positive elements to counterbalance these many negative aspects. This is one to avoid.