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Dark Corners

Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // May 22, 2007
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted May 28, 2007 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

If you're in the mood for a pseudo-Lynchian, alternate reality headscratcher similar in temperament to films like Silent Hill and Dark City, then Dark Corners might satisfy that craving. Well, sort of. It's a curious independent creepout from first time director Ray Gower that lathers on thick layers of mood and curiosity. Dark Corners also fails to rustle up a satisfying conclusion, instead regurgitating a murky, nonsensical answer to the madness. It does, however, tap into a recurring fear of realistic dreams that proves to be effective amid fluttering horror and mind-stuffing delirium.

We've all had dreams so vivid that they seemed real, right? Susan (Thora Birch) suffers from something a little more acute. Though living in a radiant, almost utopian life with husband David (Christien Anholt), her brain is plagued with visions of herself laden with long brown hair and caking blood, suffering through rather grotesque scenes. Where Susan's existence seems like a world of wine and roses, her dream world in which she is known as "Karen" is one of blood, oil, and grimy rust where she works as a crude embalmer's assistant. Mysteriously sinister creatures almost seem to be following, even hunting Karen. It all seems rooted in her struggle to bear children and the stress that her infertility grinds on her mind and body.

Nightmares turn into different sides of the coin, however, as the dreams grow darker, more violent, and even more tangible. Even a trip to a talented, albeit eerie hypnotherapist (Toby Stephens) can't wholly shake them from Susan's mind. Strangely enough, Susan finds that the control over her activities grow stronger, even more complex as many people in her seemingly tangible life start to surface in the blurring reality. Within her child-bearing struggles and this hazy line between her nightmares and this crumbling reality, Susan begins to wonder exactly which side is the true nightmare.

Though separated by glistening brightness and abysmal darkness, we don't start to wonder so much about which side is the nightmare in Dark Corners, but which side holds the answer to the crude riddle. Be forewarned, however, that this film is more of a retread into psychedelic tinkering than anything garnering much horror; within the deep, rich environment of Susan's twisted dreams, there's enough complex, vested frustration to continue this dark drilling into the core of Karen's world. Sporting a color scheme reminiscent of industrial equipment drenched with battery acid and WD-40, it's a hellacious realm that mirrors the angelic radiance of Susan's world, utilizing segmented cinematography in which the light and dark portions grasp intense starkness.

Thora Birch handles the reflective elements of Dark Corners with a attuned, attractive demeanor, while giving an ominous performance where needed that's littered with rich eccentricities. Her light portions are sharp and vibrant, but the darker portions could've reached a little deeper into the depths. Sometimes a mind-bending flick can be forgiven for decent-enough, much like what she mustered from this script. However, it needs to have a level of closure that lends satisfaction to the trip. Dark Corners disappoints there; it's demanding of thought regarding dreams, realities, and the manifestations of heaven and hell while sucking one into its convoluted narrative, but unsatisfying despite the atmosphere and twisted tension. Just pretend like the last few minutes were a forgettable nightmare, bleep it form your mind and embrace the rest of the flick for its interesting, dream world floundering.

The DVD:

Dark Corners comes form Anchor Bay in a standard keepcase DVD with Thora Birch's darkened mug plastered on the coverart and discart.

The Video:

Contrary to the back of this packaging, Dark Corners is NOT enhanced for widescreen displays. The back of the packaging clearly states "Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions", but Dark Corners is indeed non-anamorphic. That aside, when zoomed in to full the screen, this film actually looked decent. Of course, the digital grain and imperfections were heightened a bit, but it didn't look terrible. This film's rich, bombastic color scheme pours through quite well, exhibiting rich vibrancy amidst the great cinematography. Plus, the film looked pretty crisp and sharp, too. If this had been an anamorphic transfer, it'd probably be a stunner of a visual treat.

The Audio:

Dark Corners' Dolby 5.1 audio track sounded decent enough, but felt more like a barely expanded stereo track. Dialogue remained pretty audible and crisp throughout the film's tight verbal exchanges. Only when Susan waltzed amidst the darker alternate reality did the Dolby track kick into gear with wispy, frightening voices swirling amidst the scathed girl. There's a fair amount of sweeping sound, but ultimately Dark Corners' aural experience lacked complete richness amidst some very underwhelming brevity.

The Extras:

A Making of Dark Corners featurette, spanning around 15 minutes, features some insightful commentary for director Ray Gowen and Thora Birch, as well as the rest of the cast. The little piece addresses some production values, conceptual ideas, and some storyboard to screen comparisons.

Also, a Theatrical Trailer rounds out the Dark Corners' specific material. It's a fairly safe watch before the film.

Trailers for Apartment Zero and Pleasure Drivers are also included.


Final Thoughts:

Dark Corners lassoes strength in both tension and visual accomplishment, while also ensnaring an appealingly stringent performance from Thora Birch. Ultimately, this is a film that's a intricate, gritty jigsaw puzzle ripe for solving, yet the image at the end of the solution is terribly murky and lacking much definition. It's an enjoyable Rental, but nothing more since the closing reward fails to deliver much more after the hectic finish.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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