Scream Factory delves DEEP IN THE DARKNESS for their latest Chiller Network pick-up.
Desiring a change from the bustle of New York, Dr. Michael Cayle (Sean Patrick Thomas, THE BURROWERS) buys a country practice and moves his wife Christine (Kristen Bush, LIBERAL ARTS) and daughter Jessica (Athena Grant) to Ashborough, New Hampshire. The seemingly idyllic town has some idiosyncrasies like no cable, an 8 P.M. curfew, the influence on all town affairs of the mysterious midwife Lady Zellis (Blanche Baker, RAW DEAL), and the legend of rabid wild men deep in the woods known as "the isolates." His neighbor Phil (Dean Stockwell, WILD AT HEART) – whose wife (Marty Gargle) has been seriously mauled by rabid dogs – informs him that the locals make animal sacrifices at a ritual altar to keep the isolates at bay, and that Michael is expected to do so as well. When Michael fails to observe the town traditions, he is shunned by his patients with the exception of town seductress Lauren (Cara Loften) – who is really begging for his protection – and Phil's nephew Tyler (Anthony Del Negro, DARK HAUL) who warns him not to trust anyone, including his wife who seems to have adapted quickly to the town's traditions (including seeing midwife Zellis when she discovers that she is pregnant). When Lauren does turn up horribly mutilated, Michael starts to suspect that the town really does live in fear of (or is in unholy league with) something in the woods.
Scream Factory's Chiller pick-ups are more often miss than hit, and DEEP IN THE DARKNESS starts out well enough with the black male half of an interracial couple quickly alienated from a new town's all-white, non-ethnic population (including his own wife) for apparent reasons other than race. There's a Lovecraftian vibe – particularly with the presence of THE DUNWICH HORROR's Stockwell – with elements of "The Lurking Fear" but the monsters fail to scare and the meandering story does not effectively communicate the intimidation of the Stepford-esque community or the danger faced by its members if they dare to talk despite a number of victims. Lady Zellis is severely underemphasized throughout the first act and does not make much of an impression in the remainder. While the twist is unexpected, it does make everything that came before it seem ridiculously contrived. Perhaps the source novel – and its follow-up "Return to Darkness" – by Michael Laimo (whose DEAD SOULS was also a Chiller adaptation released by Scream Factory) lost something in translation.
Scream Factory's Blu-ray features a slick-looking 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen transfer of this Arri Alexa-lensed 2K production, reproducing the intentionally muted color timing. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is fairly restrained apart from music stings and atmosphere in the surrounds (coming more to life in the underground cave scenes as the isolates hiss and growl from all angles). Optional English SDH subtitles are also available and contain at least one grammatical error. IMDB lists the television broadcast version as running 88 minutes – and framed at 1.78:1 – but the version on this disc runs 101:07. Thankfully, the disc is largely barebones with a trailer (1:38) for the feature and three TV spots (0:56). The "Meet the Makers" (2:28) is really just a series of thirty-second talking head sound-bites from the cast and crew that might as well be considered additional TV spots. The disc comes with a reversible cover (as usual, the more effective cover is on the inside) and a cardboard slipcover usually granted to Scream's special editions but also afforded to the Chiller and SyFy titles. (Eric Cotenas)
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