Deep in the Darkness [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (18th May 2015).
The Film

As much as I admire Scream Factory’s efforts to release films produced for television through Chiller, the fact of the matter is none of these pictures have been remotely memorable. As a reviewer, I try to go into each one with an open mind despite the foreknowledge that everything Chiller has released is, at best, mediocre and easily forgettable. It almost appeared as though “Deep in the Darkness” (2014) would detract from that poorly-received path. Sometimes all it can take is a well-designed poster to pique my interest, and the reversible artwork for “Deep in the Darkness” has a cool Saul Bass vibe going on that I dug. This gave me hope. Cautious optimism seemed like it might turn to elation once the film got underway and the first twenty or thirty minutes had me hooked into the mystery surrounding a small New Hampshire town. I am an avowed sucker for small town horrors and creature features, so a combination of the two felt like the perfect mashup. Unfortunately, as the film progressed it became clear the script wasn’t going to properly handle the town’s hidden secrets, nor was it going to flesh out any characters well enough for them to matter much. Cliché as it might sound this mystery should have remained unsolved.

Dr. Michael Cayle (Sean Patrick Thomas) has just relocated with his wife Cristine (Kristen Bush) and daughter Jessica (Athena Grant) to the sparsely populated town of Ashborough, New Hampshire. The family is escaping the hustle and bustle of New York City, with Michael particularly interested in reopening the town’s medical practice which folded upon the bizarre death of his predecessor. No sooner does the family arrive than they are greeted by Phil (Dean Stockwell), an elderly neighbor who is dripping with altruism and eager to help the family with whatever they need. He wants to help Michael acclimate to the small town ways, including the ages-old tradition of sacrificing small animals to appease… something. Michael quickly learns that the town’s rules – and its rule – are marshalled by Lady Zellis (Blanche Baker), who has roots that go all the way back to the town’s founding.

Michael notices things seem amiss in this quaint community, and his suspicions are revealed in the flesh when he learns that deep underneath the town is a group of inhuman savages who live somewhat harmoniously with the citizens up above. Michael’s abilities are put to task when he figures out these old-school natives don’t want to eat him; they need a doctor to care for them. Not that any of them can speak a lick of English to make this clearer, but they are adept at pointing and grunting. Michael is hesitant to get involved, though, and soon his family’s lives are put in jeopardy when he starts trying to shake up the traditional status quo.

The set up once Michael and his family enter the town is fairly intriguing, but any momentum that builds up in the first thirty minutes is squandered by a lack of clear focus in the script and a deflated reveal of the town’s ancestral humanoids, who look like dirty hippies after a weekend at Burning Man. It’s obvious right from the start that the townsfolk are a bit different, and indifferent to outsiders, something the story could have played with a bit more. It’s even implied early on that maybe Michael, being black, and his wife, being white, are seen as racial outcasts by the people of Ashborough, but again the script begins a set-up that never follows through. That angle is dropped almost as quickly as it’s brought up. Another misstep is Phil letting Michael know early on that animal sacrifices are the norm around these parts. Any sense of curiosity as to what force lords over these people is kinda put to rest once it’s made clear blood ritual killings are required of the citizens. It might not spell out “subterranean savages” or anything, though it does make it apparent there’s something primal scaring them into performing this act. Plus, it just seems so out of left field, like “Hey, I can see you’re a normal doctor person with a normal family, who just arrived here, but right off the bat let me show you this bloody slab of stone where we slash small animals to death. Don’t get weirded out, though, because it’s just part of what we do here.” Thomas’ character, who acts quite rationally throughout the film, at least has an appropriate response.

I’ll say that of all the Chiller films Scream Factory has released, “Deep in the Darkness” has been the least worst. That’s damning with faint praise, and definitely a dubious honor, but it’s only due Thomas’ level-headed acting and scant few scenes of decent tension that the film can be seen as a minor achievement. Once the mystery is revealed the film loses most of the intrigue and suspense it had been building, though a couple late-in-the-game twists (obvious as they may be) do manage to keep things moderately interesting right up to the end. I can’t say there’s much replay value here, and I still can’t say it’s a good movie, but it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating and that has to count for something.

Video

The film’s 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image was shot digitally, and as such it looks clean, vibrant and clear. White levels appear a bit hot during some daylight scenes, causing a bit of minor blooming, but that’s about the only real fault to be had here. Otherwise, colors are nicely saturated, black levels are rich and contrast is stable.

Audio

Audio comes in the form of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit), and it is brimming with activity. Dialogue is set as a nice level relative to the effects, never getting lost in the mix. There’s fullness to the audio here, with nice use of space available and a flurry of activity from the rear speakers, which deftly carry the pitter-patter of creatures scampering about. There isn’t a great deal of activity on the low end of things, but the active rears and constant use of subtle effects balances out that lack of bass. An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is also included. Subtitles are available in English.

Extras

There isn’t a whole lot to see in terms of extras – just a couple of promotional TV spots, theatrical trailer and a brief featurette.

“Meet the Makers” (1080i) is a featurette that runs for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, this piece introduces the cast & crew and offers up a few brief thoughts on the project.

A theatrical trailer (1080i) runs for 1 minute and 38 seconds.

A couple of TV spots (1080i) run for 56 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible, and a slip-cover is included on initial pressings.

Overall

Presenting an intriguing mystery can be accomplished by many films, but seeing it through to a satisfying conclusion is the hard part. “Deep in the Darkness” starts off with some concepts that appear as though they might build toward something unique, though once the enigma is solved the results peter out to something less thrilling than I had hoped.

The Film: C- Video: B+ Audio: A- Extras: C- Overall: C

 


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