Darkness~ Leif Jonker, 1993, USA
If Dave Mustaine’s acid wash jeans were somehow transformed into a vampire movie, that movie would be Leif Jonker’s Darkness, and holy fuck, would it ever be awesome. Purported to have been written by Jonker when he was a mere 17 years of age and shot over the course of nearly three years in a Kansas Suburb, Darkness is an ultra low-budget, high gore Vampire film featuring a small band of teen agers fighting for their lives against a legion of their now undead peers. Here’s a fun drinking game for you and your friends to play; stick a copy of Darkness into your DVD player and take a shot every time you see the most metal shit you’ve ever seen in your entire life. You will all succumb to alcohol poisoning and die instantly.
Story isn’t a HUGE part of the equation here, remember, this is said to have been written by a 17 year old. I believe it, too, the plot is about what you’d expect to see in the spiral notebook drawings of the kid in your science class who wore the exact same Cannibal Corpse T-shirt everyday and never made eye contact with anybody. As it is, the story goes as such: A wave of vampire attacks is sweeping across Kansas, hitting each town one by one. Tobe, a mullet sporting teenaged survivor of one such attack, takes to the road on a mission to hunt the blood suckers down and slay them all in an act of awesome, heavy metal revenge. Meanwhile, another group of angsty youths, who were out of town at a metal concert (hell yeah) on the night their town got hit, return home to discover the grisly aftermath of last night’s vampire onslaught, and are immediately forced to struggle for survival amongst a sea of soulless, gore caked ghouls. They soon happen upon Tobe, and decide join him in his quest, since they sure as shit aren’t getting much done on their own, and evidently his background stocking convenience store shelves has somehow prepared Tobe for Vampire combat in a way few could have predicted. Thing happen, people get chased, people get bit, and it all builds up to a climax that delivers in a big way. I’ve been told that spoiling the end of these movies is irritating, so that’s all I’m going to say, but I do want to assure you: shit get’s awesome.
I’ve chosen to include the following pictures to substantiate my claim that this shit is rad as fuck:
I believe I have made my point.
Jonker clearly loved The Evil Dead, and one can spot that films as an influence routinely throughout Darkness, but it also feels somewhat reminiscent of The Dead Next Door, partially because of it’s washy, grainy aesthetic. It sorta looks like it was shot on Super 8, although I can’t be sure, but the washed out, fuzzy look actually lends itself well to Darkness‘ bleak, suburban hellscape atmosphere. In this case, it feels like a boon, and not a detriment. Occasionally we get some pretty effective visuals, and the film is executed quite admirably considering the complete drought of budget or resources available. The special effects in particular are nothing less than excellent, Darkness makes it a point to deliver big on blood and gore, because they know that’s about all they can promise the audience. The overall experience feels something like a middle point between The Evil Dead and Violent Shit (Review), and yes, I know, that’s fucking rad as hell. Actually, I might put this closer to Premutos, as it’s significantly better made than Violent Shit… but still much less accessible or polished than The Evil Dead.
Hey, look, MORE awesome shit.
And yes, it is super, super metal. This is the most metal film I’ve seen since Transformers The Movie (the cartoon one. The good one!) There are almost no adults in the entire film, suggesting that for three years, this was easily the coolest thing to do in Wichita if you were between the ages of 15 and 20 (and you were doing homework like a sucker!). It’s just a massive legion of butt rock kids running around in the dark, being mutilated and/or horribly mutilating each other, decked out to the nines with the best fake blood a minimum wage fast food job can buy, and set to a soundtrack of gloomy tones and underground thrash metal. I hope it’s coming across that I mean this all in the best way possible, Darkness, in many ways, delivers big time on promises that much more notorious splatter films fail to keep.
I will openly admit, however, that it’s absolutely not for everyone. The acting is amateurish (or worse), many of the shots aren’t lit for shit, the sound is poor, and some cuts of the film are over-narrated with an lame voice over that doesn’t add much to the film… in other words, all the traditional pitfalls of Splatter Cinema are here in full force. If any of those things bother you, then you’re not going to love this movie much at all. As for the rest of you, Darkness is quite possibly the dragon you’ve been chasing all this time. It is a fantastic example of what it wants to be, and is, no exaggeration, one of the best splatter films I’ve ever managed to track down.