Are you afraid of the dark? We all are, at some point in our lives, but as we grow we let our nightlights go out for good and we lose that fear of unknown horrors in the endless black — or do we? Dark, a new film written by Bloody Mess favorite Elias and helmed by Nick Basile, seeks to answer that question, and so much more.
From the beginning, the viewer can see that Kate (Whitney Able) is struggling. Her movements are sluggish and languid, her expression often blank. It’s clear that she living in two worlds. She’s just moved in with her girlfriend, but calling on ads for apartments when she’s alone; she’s a yoga instructor, but smokes like a chimney. She is caught between what is and what was, living in and running from her past simultaneously, and it is beginning to weigh her down.
With Leah, her girlfriend (played by Alexandra Breckenridge), heading to a family affair for a few days — an event that Kate herself steadfastly refuses to attend — Kate is left alone with her thoughts just as a blackout strikes New York City, leaving her without power and without any means of distraction from the torments of her own fractured psyche. With any number of horrors lurking in the dark of the city, the viewer is left to decide if the increasing sense of suffocation and certainty that someone else is out there in the dark are the warnings of an imminent attack or simply and machinations of a broken mind.
The majority of the film takes place in the apartment Kate and Leah share, where Kate’s image is hung on every wall. Once a model, who now seemingly despises her past in front of the camera, there is ample reminder her former vocation everywhere in the apartment, no doubt product of Leah’s own camera. Kate is under constant scrutiny from her former self — a younger, more fit, and seemingly more sane self who grins out from every angle.
The fact that Kate is so often seen via her mirror reflection is telling of the dichotomy she is living, split between the what she is able to portray to the outside world and the inner turmoil she can barely rein in. As her facade begins to shatter, the viewer is left to wonder how much of what is portrayed is truly happening, and how much is playing out in her swiftly deteriorating psyche.
It’s not easy for any actor to carry a film that relies heavily on solo scenes and the constant interplay burgeoning emotion, but Whitney Able gives a stellar performance as the film’s heroine, Kate, reminiscent to some degree of An Insomniac’s Nightmare. The young woman is as talented as she is lovely, bearing a striking resemblance to a young Debbie Harry and able to ease her look from sexpot to crackpot in the blink of an eye. While many films in the psychological horror genre attempt to showcase the slow mental unraveling of their protagonist, few knock it out of the park in the same manner as Able, who manages to drag her character believably through every emotion and every stage of a manic depressive episode. Kate’s breakdown is slow, poignant, and terrifying.
The only downside seems to come from Kate’s brief escape into the New York nightlife which, while providing a good deal of exposition and backgrounding to the young woman’s struggle, seems to drag on a little longer than necessary, in spite of the interesting appearance of alluring stranger Benoit, portrayed by Michael Eklund.
Supporting cast is rounded out by Brandon Sexton III, best known in the horror genre for his appearance in another great psychological horror film, Session 9. He is also remembered fondly by Gen Y as not-Warren in Empire Records.
While not your usual slash-and-hack horror affair, Dark is an imaginative take on the imagination itself, allowing the mind to fill in the blanks as the fear mounts towards its inevitable crescendo. We expect nothing less from the team behind this film.
Stars: Whitney Able, Alexandra Breckenridge, Brendan Sexton III
Director: Nick Basile
Writer: Elias, Nick Basile
Images courtesy darkthefilm.com