The Bloody Mary Film Festival screened many fantastic films created by women. One of those films was DARKEN. Directed by Audrey Cummings (Tormented), the film follows a troubled nurse who accidentally goes through a door into another world. This world, known as Darken, is built as a series of rooms that are all connected together. The strange labyrinthine world is made only stranger by the people who inhabit it.
Cummings and writer RJ Lackie (Inhuman Condition) created a strange and unique world in DARKEN. The entire world is room upon room upon room, possibly going on forever, with no way outside and no sunlight. While that is unique enough, the origin of these rooms is particularly interesting. Each room is dedicated to one resident of this world. It can be a place they felt safest or the last place they were before entering Darken.
The inhabitants are all considered lost souls; people who couldn’t or wouldn’t make it in their own world so they ended up here. It adds an interesting layer to the plot because there doesn’t seem to be any sense of time or place between the rooms and the people. Some of the clothes worn by the people of Darken looks medieval, some looks almost futuristic. The nurse’s arrival throws the world off-balance. There is clearly some kind of conspiracy going on, and this outsider is the one who has to figure out the truth, even if only to find a way back to her own world.
There are many characters to follow in DARKEN, and some of the performances are better than others. The nurse, Eve, is played by Bea Santos (Coconut Hero). While I don’t necessarily dislike her performance, it isn’t the strongest in the film. Santos doesn’t quite convey the emotion one would expect of a person thrown into this situation, resulting in a rather monotone performance. Christine Horne (The Captive) plays the acting ruler of Darken, Charity. While the motives behind Charity’s actions aren’t all that complicated, Horne still gives audiences a villain that feels truly evil. One of the more surprising performances came from Ari Millen (Orphan Black) as Martin. This character is a weaselly little henchman, and Millen portrays him in a very memorable way. On top of these three, the rest of the ensemble cast delivers credible performances.
In this film, the characters each look distinctly different from one another, the set design is perfect, and for a film called DARKEN it is surprisingly well lit. The filmmakers used these elements to immerse the audience in a world that is bizarre yet oddly familiar. The many different rooms are particularly well done. Each room has its own distinct look, yet they clearly all exist in the same world. The world has “dark” in the name, and no sunlight enters any of the rooms. Naturally, it is a very dark setting. In other films that are almost entirely dark, it can be difficult to clearly see what is going on. Yet the filmmakers of DARKEN do a great job of keeping things well lit enough that you can see everything that is happening. At times the production has a similar look and feel to a Syfy channel original movie. That isn’t necessary a bad thing, since lately Syfy has been producing many successful films, but it is something I thought throughout the entire film.
DARKEN is an intense sci-fi/fantasy mashup with distinct Alice in Wonderland vibes. The world Cummings and Lackie created is truly wonderful, and it has the opportunity to continue to expand. The highlight of the film is clearly the world and the mythology created. While some of the performances leave a bit to be desired, overall the cast delivers convincing portrayals. The film may not be the most memorable one of the festival, but it is definitely entertaining and will leave audiences hoping for a sequel.