Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the dark fantasy feature DARKEN (2018) by director Audrey Cummings. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
“A young woman is propelled into an industrial fantasy world where a rebel group has taken up arms against a religious despot who demands that everyone swears allegiance to the unseen “Mother Darken” or else be put to death.”
Right from the top I have to praise the production design on this film. Given the industrial, close quarters nature of this movie I have to imagine there were some budgetary constraints, but the sets were outfit in such a way as to look a bit different from our world. While it was definitely clear that this was filmed inside of various factory styled rooms, each new area had something just a little different from the last to make it seem distinctive.
In fact, from a lighting standpoint, each space was given varying degrees of illumination that best showed off their various motifs. By lighting the piece in this fashion each room felt just a little different from the last and, when taken all together, each new area became cohesive to the world at large since the entire place was lit in various ways. It was a clever trick that managed to not only portray the contrasts at play, but also managed to convey the greater story idea that this is all one world.
From a plot standpoint this fell a bit flat as we have definitely seen these broad strokes many times before. One area that actually interested me was the main religious zealot who seemed in control for a bit, but they were quickly sidelined by a less interesting antagonist. Once this change happened, the story became pretty run of the mill with our heroes banding together against a warlike force who would stop at nothing to acquire as much control as she could. Sure, our villain occasionally spouted off some religious jargon, but it was so obviously a means to an end that it was hard to really think of her as anything other than a power hungry warlord.
It also does not help that our main antagonist was not that great from an acting standpoint. To be fair, she was better than a few of the cast members, but that is not saying much since the majority of the acting was middle of the road. This was probably my biggest issue as the lack of truly solid performances kept me from getting too invested in this feature.
All in all, this had some cool lighting and set design, but was hampered by lackluster performances. There were some good ideas at play near the beginning, but after a while the story became relatively traditional. Fans of movies like Cube (1997) or Neverwhere (1996) will find the look and feel of this to be relatively similar.