::sniffles!:: Jason (Landy Cannon) is still mopey after his kinda-sorta-fiancee Jasmine (Vanessa James) dumped her engagement ring off to him in the mail and called the whole thing off. Even palling around with his buddy Ricky (Jason Reso) on the set of a 1-900 phone sex commercial shoot isn't enough to turn that frown upside-down. Oh, but wait...! Maybe he'll have a chance to rekindle that flame on a camping trip with Jaz, her Jason-doesn't-know-she's-her-wiccan-lesbian-fling Marlene (Haley Shannon), and the too-cute-for-words Renee (Julia Schneider). See, Renee has been plagued by these oddball nightmares about a jiggling, half-naked woman carving apart a parade of nasty demons. I guess that's inspired her to seek out all sorts of Dark Magicks at the used bookstore down the road, and she's put together this whole trip to chat up the spirit of a young girl who mysteriously vanished twentysomething years ago. Her Kandarian is a little rusty, though, and Renee winds up opening a gateway to some darkly-nether-dimension and sucks in one of those evil beasties. Bad! ...but she also teleports over the juggy warrior princess from her dreams (Brigitte Kingsley), so it all kind of evens out in the end, right? Right?!?
Okay, Dark Rising
At least Dark Rising piles together a gaggle of cute Canadian girls, and if that's your thing, pretty much all of 'em either get topless or close enough to it. Nah, it's not Cinemax After Dark-grade, but what Dark Rising lacks in a budget, it tries to make up for with Mo Fuzz-style production value. It takes a while for the fantasy-slash-action to really kick in, but I've gotten parking tickets with a bigger price tag than its effects budget, there are only a couple of battles, and the fight choreography looks like it was hammered out five minutes before the camera rolled. Even the big, bad demon (a K'lirth D'nrak or something like that) looks like a cross between Evil Ash and the monster puppet from Rock 'n Roll Nightmare. I mean, if you have an action/comedy without much in the way of action or comedy, all you're left with is a slash, and who wants to watch that? It's just a drag because I really like the cast. Sure, some of the supporting bits are kind of stilted, and the main bunch overplay it, but that kinda works in a campy flick like this. They just seem like they're having a blast together, and that borderline-delirious sense of we-have-the-best-jobs-evar really bleeds through. With a different stack of names over the title, I kinda doubt Dark Rising would've worked at all. I just wish the movie was as much fun to watch as it clearly was to make. Rent It.
Oh, but if you pick up Dark Rising and do go nuts over it, writer/director Andrew Cymek's chatter in his Twitter feed makes it sound like that sequel ought to be rolling around pretty quickly...
Shot natively on some flavor of digital video, Dark Rising hacks its way onto DVD in kinda mediocre anamorphic widescreen. I dug the way some stretches look, especially the blown-out contrast and brilliant greens of the opening spat. A lot of the movie seems like it's mired in a kind of digital haze, though, and there's fairly nasty compression artifacting too. Its colors sometimes bleed a bit in the bright of day, and the photography can get really noisy at night which is...y'know, the backdrop for half the flick. Clarity...detail...all that's pretty lackluster too. I mean, this DVD is completely watchable, but if you're keen on your shiny five inch discs startling you, then keep your expectations kinda modest here.
Dark Rising serves up a kinda routine Dolby Digital 5.1 track, belted out here with a bitrate of 448kbps. It's not a hypercaffeinated mix with a thunderous, foundation-rattling, internal-organ-liquefying low-end or anything, but for such a low-budget flick, it sounds okay. Dark Rising's dialogue comes through cleanly and clearly, natch. The surrounds slink to life during the action sequences -- clanking chains, sparking electrical whatchamadoozits, a snarling beastie, swiping blades -- but are otherwise pretty low-key. The directionality seems kind of off at some points, especially near the end where the Kilowog Dovebar or whatever it's called is in front of the camera but its growls are coming from behind. I wouldn't chalk myself up as all that much of a fan of the tinny, over-the-top, whimsy-exclamation-point score, but it's packing a great soundtrack, and those infectiously poppy songs are rendered pretty well too. Dark Rising's audio isn't some kind of technical marvel or anything, but...yeah, it's fine for what it is.
A straightahead stereo track has also been piled on, but there aren't any dubs or subtitles this time around.
The Final Word
A medieval arsenal! An ancient evil awakened by a dusty, I guess similarly ancient half-translated tome! A not-so-much-the-hero-type from the here-and-now who's stuck squaring off against that nasty little bugger with the horned helmet, jagged teeth, and tattered cape! A deliriously campy sense of humor! Romance...kind of! Yeah, Dark Rising is kind of swinging for the same fences as Army of Darkness only...y'know, not that well. I mean, I like the cast, and there's still something kind of infectious about the inhuman amount of fun all of 'em are clearly having, but a campy action/comedy that doesn't score all that many laughs and kind of shrugs off all the big battle sequences...? Rent It.
Why Not? A Couple More Screengrabs