The Dark Red: BRWC Frightfest Review.
Even if it is flawed or cliched, a good horror film can rise above its shortcomings if it does something interesting with its formulaic elements, gives us interesting, well-crafted characters we want to see make it through the slaughter or just if it provides plenty of good scares.
Written and directed by Dan Bush, The Dark Red does none of these: it does nothing interesting with its story or characters and it’s not at all scary.
It begins with an old trope, a woman in a psychiatric hospital. This latest subject in the long line of horror film in-patients is called Sybill, she is played by April Billingsley and at the start of the film she meets and starts to recount her story to her doctor (Kelsey Scott).
Any early belief that the film might be going an interesting route with used material, though, does not last long.
The Dark Red takes up slowly through Sybill’s life, from her troubled early life and her diagnosis with Schizophrenia as an adult. She meets a man, David (Adam Scott-alike Conal Byrne, also co-writer) who she falls in love with instantly.
So far so hackneyed, Sybill then confides in him her deepest secret – that health professionals believe her to be schizophrenic, but in reality it’s her rare blood type giving her the ability to read minds.
David is convinced after seeing it work once but, guess what, it doesn’t change how he feels about her and the two make plans to marry and start a family. A heavily pregnant Sybill later meets David’s staunchly religious family, who seem to take a particular interest in her abilities. It’s easy to see what’s going to happen next, but it’s hard to care.
Rather than providing genuine scares or a feel of unease, The Dark Red instead goes the lazy route of just having a lot of James Wan-style smash cuts and sudden blares of loud music. In its ridiculous final third it forgets its supposed to be a horror film altogether and instead turns into Terminator 2, with Sybill in the Sarah Connor role.
The Dark Red is worse than not being scary, it’s not interesting. The plot is bland and there are no interesting characters – crucially, not even Sybill, whose arc is what the whole film hangs on. Worse still, she has no chemistry with any of the other character, most importantly of all David.
Horror fans can do a lot better than The Dark Red, a film that does not make enough of its elements and can not get a hold on its material. It can hardly even call itself a horror film.
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