JULY 3, 2010
The latest in my hopefully ending 'series' of 2 am cable offerings that I've never heard of, Dark Rising, is one of the better ones. It's not, you know, GOOD, but it's at least watchable, even genuinely entertaining at times. And it seems that the folks involved were actually trying, so it's automatically an improvement over the Kempers and Kinky Killers of the world. Oh, and actress Brigitte Kingsley running around in what could best be described as a "Sexy Xena" outfit. Like I said, it's watchable.
In fact, I think if you take out the Kevin Smith wannabe nonsense it would be a good movie. The plot is kind of cool (a little girl demanding bedtime stories from her father is inadvertently sucked into another dimension when he reads some curse aloud, learns to fight monsters, comes back to our dimension to fight monsters) and Kingsley is a great fish-out-of-water heroine. Unfortunately, that stuff is limited to the 2nd half of the film. To get there, you have to wade through a bunch of unfunny Smith-ian "humor" and plot situations. Seems our clean-cut hero was just dumped by his girlfriend (Mallrats), who has become a lesbian (Chasing Amy-ish), and thus seeks solace in the words of his abrasive best friend (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc). And they tell anecdotes about their dicks and over-say everything, and there's another kindly girl a la Trish the Dish (or Joey Adams' character in Mallrats, I forget her name) who just sort of hangs out being supportive but also mocking everyone... and NONE of it is funny. The only laughs I got in the entire thing were from the monster scenes (intentional and non).
It doesn't help that none of the actors are particularly good, save Kingsley who at least has some spark in her. The guy playing the best friend is particularly awful (I later discovered he is a professional wrestler, which makes his bad acting somewhat puzzling), and the other girls are bland (even the lesbian sex scene is dull). The main guy is OK, but his character can almost be considered mentally challenged at times, making him hard to sympathize with whether the actor was good or not. As such, I'm still unsure if certain parts were SUPPOSED to be as dumb as they sounded, like when there's a sort of supernatural EMP and one of them notes that his phone has "No signal, no power." How can you check the signal if there's no power to begin with? But that's what happens when you're intentionally trying to be campy and you have amateur actors - the tone can only be described as "all over the place".
Actually, so is the plotting. It all eventually (sort of) makes sense, but until that point, you would be forgiven for constantly being puzzled, as it seems there are three different movies going on at once; the love triangle/camping trip movie, the little girl being taken to another dimension/Kingsley movie, and then a third one that still sort of baffles me, with some other girls sort of like Kingsley battling monsters somewhere. I assume they are also in her dimension, but it's a plot thread that never has any real payoff. There's also a sequel setup at the end (one that's apparently not delusional, as the sequel has been shot is set for release this year) that inexplicably includes some heretofore unseen dudes in ski masks offering to help our heroes take on a new threat.
But again, the 2nd half is largely entertaining, as the monster kills a surprising number of the protagonists, Kingsley does one of those sweet-ass "take two blades and slice in opposing directions" moves and gets blood all over her Venus-esque figure (HOT), and even the humor starts to work a bit (the lesbian subplot even pays off with a good line that would take too much effort to contextualize). Plus, once the dead weight of the cast is out of the picture, we can start to see the type of movie it should have been from the first place (just the guy and his ex, and the monster/hunter stuff). In those moments it kind of reminded me of Jack Brooks (which is a film I'd rather see a sequel to), another Canadian production involving rubber monsters and relationship troubles plaguing a reluctant hero.
As this was on cable, I had no access to the DVD's extra features, which apparently feature a commentary and some deleted scenes. But if not for my OCD, I probably wouldn't have bothered with them anyway - the movie is neither good enough for me to want more, nor was it so bad that I had to try to figure out what went wrong. It's just plain OK, average. If I had seen one million films in my life and ranked them all, it would probably be exactly at 500,000. So uh, grats?
What say you?