Ghost: “I am the stinky cheese man.”
I’ve never been a big fan of the label “Torture Porn” as an umbrella term for any Horror film that deals with the intentional infliction of physical suffering. Pornography is imagery or writing that increases sexual desire, so “Torture Porn” implies deriving sexual satisfaction from the act of torture (as either a perpetrator or a voyeur)—and this is not an accurate description of many films that find themselves lumped into this dubious subgenre. Saw, for example, is often sited as the Poster Child of “Torture Porn”, even though the killer’s motives are completely non sexual. Same things goes for Hostel. Furthermore, I’m willing to bet that most Horror aficionados, even those with an affinity for “Torture Porn”, are not actually deriving any sexual pleasure from the experience. This is not to imply, however, that there are no films that portend a connection between torture and sex; there certainly are a few—and A Darker Reality is one of them.
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: A down and dirty crime thriller A Darker Reality follows detective Alex Belasco and his assistant a media savvy personality named Jesse Metcalfe as they try to find a serial killer who targets women known only as “The Ghost”. Violent and brutal this isn’t your mother’s late night cop show and sometimes things just don’t always end the way that you would want them to.
Until I did my normal post-viewing/pre-review research on this film, I had no idea that A Darker Reality is actually the sequel to a film called Dark Reality. If I had never know, it still wouldn’t have mattered as A Darker Reality stands up just fine on it’s own. Alisha Seaton was in both films where she plays the consummate victim Carey Andrews.
A Darker Reality desperately wants to be compared to Silence of the Lambs—so much so that they even make a joke about it. Detective Alex Belasco (James C. Burns) interviews an inmate (Jonathan Oldham) who claims to have important information about the elusive serial killers know as “The Ghost”. At the end of the interview, Alex jokingly calls his informant “Lecter”. Indeed, the perspective and execution of A Darker Reality is similar to any number of Horror offerings that take place in the context of an investigation: Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Murder by Numbers, etc. A Darker Reality, however, is nowhere near as good as any of these films (it merely wishes it was). The main fault of this set up is that the cop characters seem rather nonchalant about the entire situation. There’s no real sense of urgency. In fact, it looks to me like a piss-poor, sloppy investigative effort all around.
Before I go any deeper, let me be 100% clear: Your wife/girlfriend will not like this movie. Even if she claims to enjoy Horror movies, she will hate A Darker Reality and you will get no play if you subject her to it. The Ghost (played by Daniel Baldwin) and his mentally challenged sidekick Newt (Arthur Bullock) are sexual sadists of the most despicable sort; their exploits include acts of extreme bondage, physical/psychological torture, and even genital mutilation–all as a precursor to necrophilia and cannibalism. While we get a hint of a backstory (Ghost’s grandma caught him masturbating as a kid and threatened to cut his dick off), they are both completely 2-dimesional villains: An exaggeration of nihilistic, psychopathic evil.
The harem of hostages held by Ghost and Newt are portrayed as utterly helpless, hysterical victims. True, it’s meant to show how completely Ghost has entrapped them, and how hopeless they have become, but most of them come off as unlikable and selfish. Instead of forming bonds and supporting each other, they squabble and hurl insults at each other. Gina (Heather Howe) even emerges as a sort of deputy enforcer, keeping the other women quite and complacent.
When they do finally manage to band together, they run around like decapitated chickens and eventually separate—making them easy prey. It’s a shame because, in reality, 4 women, hyped up on adrenaline and fighting for their lives, would have been a powerful force, one Ghost may not have been able to defeat. All in all, there are no positive/powerful female characters—only sobbing, quivering wretches motivated by self-preservation. The one exception is Special Agent Jesse Metcalfe (Sunny Doench), but even she is ineffectual, purposeless, and (eventually) victimized.
A Darker Reality succeeds at creating a nightmare world devoid of light and compassion. The dungeon/torture chamber is filthy with what looks like shit smeared across the walls. It’s a labyrinth as foreboding and inescapable as the maze in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Unfortunately, the atmosphere is almost always polluted with shrieks and sobs to the point of distraction.
Besides good sets, there’s not much in this film for me to praise. I ask myself while viewing, “Am I enjoying this?” and answered, “No.” After the film, I tried to think of something unique or innovative and came up completely blank. Finally, I tried to imagine who this film is geared towards, the target audience? Truthfully, it seems tailor made for misogynists and sadists.
The twist ending was unexpected, but not at all satisfying as the implication of Stockholm Syndrome seems completely unrealistic in this particular case. Clearly, the filmmakers are hoping for another sequel and even a possible franchise, but these characters and this story have nothing to offer the intelligent Horror aficionado. It’s not that I was offended by the violence; as far as that goes, A Darker Reality is on par with films like The Seasoning House, A Serbian Film, and Funny Games. The difference is these other films all had an important message buried in the subtext, whereas A Darker Reality has absolutely nothing below the surface.
1 out of 5 Skull Heads.
Directed by: Chris Kazmier
Starring: Daniel Baldwin, Sunny Doench, James C. Burns and Alisha Seaton