Darkness Reigns is a 2018 horror film written and directed by Andrew P. Jones. The film stars Zachary Mooren, Linara Washington, and Peter Mayer with Ford Fanter and Casper Van Dien. Darkness may not reign, but good ideas do.
The plot focuses on the behind the scenes shooting of a horror movie. Daniel(Mooren) is the behind the scenes camera man for the film that takes place on an alleged haunted location. Things begin to get weird, even though Sidney(Mayer), the resident medium, tells Daniel there is nothing to worry about. Quickly things go out of control on set and they must find a way out of the haunted hotel.
The film starts off slow, with the focus on Daniel dropping names in his car and how they wouldn’t have talked to him before his documentary. Here is where things begin to get interesting. We learn that the film Darkness Reigns is a film within a film, not completely unusual but also not the norm. It does a nice job of twisting this idea by show that what turns into Daniel’s movie was actually supposed to be behind the scenes footage for another movie staring Casper Van Dien played by Casper Van Dien. These little twists help draw viewers in by twisting already seen troupes and changing them just enough to be new and fresh. The twist at the end was out of no where, but clues are there to lead up to it making more obvious looking back on it.
The film is mostly done found footage style with only the beginning and the end breaking out of found footage. It doesn’t feel jarring to go into the found footage but when the found footage portion of the film is done it feels odd to be back to 3rd person. It is also weird when during the last ten minutes of the movie, during the found footage section there is a flashback. The flashback is fine, but just doesn’t seem to fit with the way the story was going and seems to distract from the important information within the flashback.
A plus in the film is the mix of CGI and practical effects. There are multiple times in the film where CGI had to be used and many times CGI looks poor, but in this the CGI fit in well with the effects. Any effects that didn’t look good with CGI were used sparingly and quickly. The practical effects are just as good with only one questionable one. Towards the end a demonic character appears and, to me at least, I didn’t like the look of the demon character. The features appeared rubbery and looked more like an orc from Lord of the Rings than a demon, but it doesn’t take away much. The sets are extremely well done and feel like an actual bigger budget movie set. The premiere at the beginning of the film doesn’t look like a Hollywood premiere, but it is big and impressive looking enough to make it feel bigger than one would expect watching this movie. The actual sets for the movie within a movie are also well done, feeling alive with people doing work on sets in the haunted hotel location.
The acting is where the film is a little hit or miss. The highlights are Mayer as Sidney and Casper playing himself. Mayer’s voice really makes the character sound wise and knowledgeable. He fits the character really well. Casper plays, what I assume, is a kind of dumb and full of himself version of himself. He does this role really well and enjoyable to watch, even when he is saying dumb things. Fanter’s Aaron is solid and plays his role well as skeptic friend. Linara Washington as Vanessa does a fine job, even if it isn’t anything amazing. Zachery Mooran’s Daniel is the weakest link. While he isn’t on camera as much as other characters, when he is or when he speaks from behind the camera it comes off as if he is just reading off a cue card. It isn’t the worst, but it really takes away from some parts of the film.
Some Extra thoughts: The more I watch this, the more it reminds me of a Universal Studios ride and less of a movie. Name dropping in the beginning comes off as whiny and to inside baseball. There is the generic found footage night vision mode.
The overall audio quality is fine. The characters are understandable and no missed dialogue due to bad sound. Some of the characters have voice distorting to make them sound more ghostly or demonic and while it doesn’t take away from the film, it doesn’t add much either. Overall the audio is solid and no issues.
Darkness Reigns is a solid film with some new interesting twists on the genre. There is somethings to set it out from the pack of found footage style horror films, but there is enough holding it back to not recommend to everyone.