Movie Review: DARKNESS REIGNS (2018)

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Many time in my past I have written about my love for found footage and documentary style horror movies. Even though the genre is so used and abused, I will always give the movie a chance and see for myself. Add in the plot of something demonic or paranormal and I'm there quicker than you can finish the title. Most of the time the movies make a sucker out of me but I am there nonetheless. When DARKNESS REIGNS crossed my path, of course I was going to give it a go. 

DARKNESS REIGNS was written and directed by Andrew P. Jones. He also directed Haunting of Cellblock 11 and did work on Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel. It stars Casper Van Dien (Sleepy Hollow) as himself (his wife Jennifer Wenger makes an appearance as Rebecca Long in the movie), Zachary Mooren (S.W.A.T.) as Daniel, Linara Washington (Haunting in Cellblock 11) as Vanessa, Ford Fanter (Dope) as Aaron and Peter Mayer (Haunting in Cellblock 11) as Sidney. 

DARKNESS REIGNS follows Daniel, the director of a documentary that is filming behind-the-scenes footage of a movie called Defanatus Soul. In the beginning, it mentions the set would take place in an old haunted hotel in Missouri. Immediately my mind called bullshit on that because, as a native Missourian born and raised, who the HELL wants to go to Missouri?? I mean it’s nice enough if you like cows, corn and the best damn BBQ you’ve ever had in your life (I’m looking at you Kansas City). But, lo and behold, it was actually filmed at the closed Truman Hotel in Jefferson City, MO which is the state’s capital. 

It’s not the first time Andrew P. Jones has made his way to the “Show Me” State to film. His previous film, Haunting of Cellblock 11, was filmed in the very famously haunted Missouri State Penitentiary. The setting may be the best thing about this movie. The hotel is definitely old but still in wonderful shape with a very Shining-like quality about it. In fact, there’s a scene from the movie blatantly ripped from the movie The Shining, but we must back up a bit. 

The movie starts as Daniel heads to a red carpet event for his movie as he obviously survives the events at the hotel and we then get into the footage of the film. As the movie goes on, strange events occur like disembodied voices and flashes of things in the mirror. After an interview with Casper Van Dien (this movie doesn’t really paint him in the best of lights which is strange) and his deep V, he gets supernaturally thrown from a balcony and dies. Then, 98% of the crew follow in a mass death…thing and we are left with Daniel and Aaron from the documentary, Vanessa the make-up artist and Sydney the film’s advisor and useless medium. 

We then track them through the sealed hotel as they try and escape, all the while fending off a demon that has its sights set on them. Without spoiling the ending, here’s where I stand. I have seen worse movies. Given that, this movie has issues. First and foremost is the flow of the film; it has long boring moments with quick successions of events that takes out most of the characters and then long and boring moments again. Casper Van Dien is a great actor, but in this movie his acting is only good when he acting in the movie within a movie. Jesus…say that five times fast. 

The acting of the other characters is mostly sub-par with Sidney being mostly realistic because reality TV mediums are usually the worst, Vanessa being meh until the end where she does improve and Daniel starting off with the look and personality of a Greek statue that just happened to come alive to becoming frantic and intense which, given the end of the movie, is actually finally what it should be. Everything from the action to the acting is so on and off. Sometimes it’s good and other times you are just checking how many minutes you have left in this modest 70-minute feature. 

One of the best performances is by Sarah, the film’s security girl, who you see for a minute and a half in the beginning. The video quality is great and the audio is too in most parts. When the demon is talking, most of the time, it’s being played in the room as opposed to added to the track later making it difficult to understand. Other than that, the quality of the film itself is great. The script, well, not as great but again, I’ve seen worse. There were times it actually had my full attention and I wanted to know what would happen and there are other times when my eyes glazed over and I fell asleep for a minute. Despite the ending being the least plausible thing in the entire world (if the events were real, it would be a practical snuff film and would more likely be used in an investigation, not a red carpet showing ESPECIALLY with the death of a celebrity), it was moderately entertaining. 

All in all, DARKNESS REIGNS is pretty good. Would I watch it again? Nah, BUT is it worth a watch? Sure, if you like mockumentary horror films and get a kick out of demonic themes, it’s not the worst way to spend an hour and ten minutes. Plus, it’s a homestate flick that puts lil ole Missouri in the spotlight. 

D.D. Crowley

DARKNESS REIGNS will be released on VOD July 10th from Wild Eye Releasing.

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