MARCH 28, 2012
A few minutes into The Dark Lurking, I started having flashbacks to games like Overblood and the original Resident Evil – not because of the plotting or situations, but from the VOICES. Everyone sounded like they were delivering lines for a video game cutscene, with that strange detached tone of voice and habit of making every single line sound like it was a punchline or meant for a trailer. So it was even more obnoxious when the movie actually began resembling a video game as well.
The plot points in this movie are straight out of any “Survival Horror” game you’ve ever played over the past 15 years or so. Characters are tasked with turning machines back on, taking alternate routes in order to open jammed doors, etc. I half expected one of them to discover that they needed to slide some tiles around in order to form a picture in order to proceed any further. And all of this stuff serves the main “plot”, which, I shit you not, is about the characters trying to pass a number of levels (meaning floors, but called levels every time) in order to escape. Or, you know, WIN. Oh, and it kicks off with a woman waking up in a strange room and with a mysterious tattoo – the same way far too many games in this genre start.
It’s also paced like a video game, in that you get a few seconds of plot/dialogue and then a lot of action. For a low budget movie, I’ll give them this much – they sure as hell don’t skimp on the violence, as it seems there’s another epic shootout or fight every 5 minutes, with lots and lots of mutant blood/goo splattering everywhere. But it’s also like a video game where you play the same level over and over – the enemies never get tougher, there are no new kinds, and no “boss” of note (though there is a traitorous human enemy, Wesker style), which makes this a very repetitive 90 minutes. You could swap the big finale action with any random scene in the middle and it wouldn’t mean much in terms of escalation, something that might not be as noticeable if they weren’t seemingly hellbent on making Dead Space The Movie.
The excess of action is a blessing in one way though: the actors and dialogue are pretty much awful across the board. The main girl is thankfully OK enough, but it doesn’t matter much when she’s given such nonsense to say. The backstory is a confusing jumble of plot points from a dozen sci-fi/horror games and movies, as if they figured by cribbing a bit from everything they could make their own unique concoction. And that can actually work under the right circumstances, but sadly this is not one of those times, because it has no personality of its own. Doomsday was also a “Movie Stew”, but it had the cast (and money) to deliver some real spectacle – when you’re in the low budget world, you have to counter with what you CAN provide (fun dialogue, unique looking monsters, etc).
Another major flaw is that they inexplicably start the movie with a team of guys who are alerted to the problem at the base and head there to help extract survivors. Which would be fine if they were our main characters, but they’re not. After this bit, we are introduced to our actual heroine, who doesn’t know the things we just heard about. It’s very disorienting, and not in a beneficial way – it just makes the movie seem unfocused right from the start. She’s our gateway into this story, so we should be learning things when she does. Plus, it’s not long after we meet her (in a calm scene) that the action ramps up again, so the opening bit is hardly necessary from a “let’s start with a bang” way of thinking – without it we’d still have a big action setpiece before the ten minute mark. Also, I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but the credits are equally disjointed – all out of usual order and skipping the entire cast for some reason – it actually added to the “we’re joining a story already in progress” feeling.
I was far more impressed with the DVD’s making of piece, which ran about 25 minutes and covered tons of technical matters: building the set, creating the FX, etc. Lot of DIY ingenuity and creativity on display here; I would welcome a full length doc if only for the fact that seeing this much work go into such a disappointing movie always bums me out, so 25 minutes is perfect. There’s also a fun short film from the same folks, involving a “Netherworld” – I’d actually be more excited about a feature version of this than I was for the movie, honestly. A fairly impressive trailer and (why?) a still gallery round things out; a decent array of extras for a movie that I wish was better.
What say you?