The Dark Hours (2005)

JANUARY 4, 2011


My original pick for the day, Twins Of Evil, had to be replaced after about 5 minutes, due to the fact that Netflix was offering a sub-Mill Creek transfer of the film (one running at about 15 frames per second to boot). I don’t care if it’s fucking Dark Ride, there’s no excuse to watch a film with such a piss-poor presentation (especially if I’m going to be critiquing it, or whatever you call what it is I do here), so I shut it off and put on The Dark Hours, which I had rented and figured I’d watch later in the week.

A curious blend of psychological thriller and “torture porn” (pliers come into play more than once!), the movie was pretty decent but a bit too muddled for its own good, and lacked a real hook to separate it from other, mostly better films of this type. Part of the problem is that the script reveals too much too early – our heroine has a brain tumor (hint #1), and there are odd transitions that feel almost dreamlike (hint #2). What should be a cool shock that makes you want to watch the movie again is unfortunately kind of obvious, and I can’t help but wonder if they hadn’t revealed the stuff about the tumor too early if the twist would have worked better. The villains do that thing where they show up and end up turning our protagonists against one another, and if Wil Zmak’s script waited until this portion of the movie to reveal her tumor (and its tendency to put people into comas), perhaps I would have been too caught up in the action to think much of it. Instead she tells us before we’re even aware that we’re watching a horror movie – dead giveaway.

Also, a dog is killed in the first 20 minutes or so. As I’ve said before, if you kill a dog in a movie, you have to bring some triple A material in order to get me back in your good graces. I can deal if it’s something like Halloween 4 or 5, where the poor mutt is killed off-screen and found later, but this movie has a lovable golden retriever getting shot in the head at point blank – ugh. I get that they need to paint these folks as scary villains with minimal time to do it, but there should be another way. At least kill an annoying dog.

Luckily, the two leads are quite good, in particular Aidan Devine as the villain, who manages to actually become the most likable and interesting character in the movie. Since (spoiler, if you haven’t guessed it yet from my earlier hints) the whole movie is in her head, it allows him to be a sort of mentor through her imagined journey, almost helping her prevail instead of doing the villain-y thing and trying to kill her or whatever. Devine also reminded me of JK Simmons a bit, which is a good thing. Put this guy in more stuff! Also, kudos to Kate Greenhouse for managing to remain sympathetic despite being introduced as the most heartless psychiatrist ever depicted on film; even the Cronenberg character in Nightbreed seemed to have his patients’ best interest more at heart than she does.

I also enjoyed how the more surreal elements of the story were depicted. I mentioned the odd transitions (like when she calls her husband on the phone and then they pan around her to later, when he’s in the room with her), but they do some really cool things later in the film too, once we’ve already kind of figured out what was going on. At one point she “flashes back” to a romantic dinner with her husband where she’s talking about how she helped a patient of hers, and we hear the sounds of a restaurant, and their body language suggests a nice date, but the scene actually takes place in their cold cabin, and they’re both covered in blood and such from the night’s ordeal. Very cool.

The disc has some standard extras, including a very dry commentary with the director and... producer? (I forget now), where they prove how very Canadian they are (“House” = “Hose”) and even admit that they may have tipped off the audience too early. But it’s mostly the usual stuff about how cold it was or whatever. They don’t say much about the alternate ending, which I ASSUME is meant to just clarify what the movie was suggesting, and not completely change the film’s conclusion. Then there’s about an hour of behind the scenes footage, but I stopped watching it after a while due to it being incredibly boring and pointless (we see about 10 minutes of blocking out the film’s first “scare”, without anyone actually discussing it to the camera). Maybe it gets better, but since the commentary stops the second the film cuts to credits without even as much as a “thanks for watching”, I’m guessing these guys just aren’t into providing much insight on their film’s meanings and what was real and what wasn’t.

Apparently this movie has one of the lowest US box office takes of all time (423 dollars), which is a shame as it’s not THAT bad and thus shouldn’t be remembered for that (it's pretty much the most significant thing written on its Wikipedia page). But on the other hand, it’s too small to really resonate much - even its title is rather snoozy - and I probably won’t remember much about it by the time I watch the next “it was all in their head” flick.

What say you?


  1. A little muddled, yeah, but I overall enjoyed it. Grossed me out, made me sad, made me scared and tense; the film definitely made its point!

  2. I'm with you on the "kill a dog you better be an A grade movie" thing (plus there better be a good reason for it other than trying to make bad guys look badder). I've actually stopped watching some horror movies b/c of gratuitous dog killing and nothing else that redeemed such a cheap attempt at shocking.


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