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Dark Corners

Union Station Media/Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: 5/22/2007

Movie: 2 out of 5
Video: 3 out of 5
Audio: 3 out of 5
Extras: 2 out of 5

Review by Mike Long, Posted 5/23/07

Philosophers love to discuss the nature of reality, and how we can distinguish between what is real and what isn't. While these discussions often leave me with a headache, I love movies which tackle these issues. For me, there's nothing better than a good "mindf*&%" movie like Jacob's Ladder, Brain Dead, or even something like The I Inside. In these movies, we take a journey with the main character, and learn that nothing around them can be trusted. It takes a very subtle touch to make these films work. Dark Corners wants to be like these movies (the DVD box even says so), but there is nothing subtle happening here and the result is a mess.

Thora Birch stars in Dark Corners in dual roles. Susan Hamilton lives in a bright, sunlight world with her husband, David (Christien Anholt). They live in a nice house, and they have been going through IVF treatments in hopes of having a baby. Karen Clarke inhabits a dark, drab world, where everything is dirty and rusty. She works in a funeral home and is often chastised by her boss.

Lately, both women have been having trouble sleeping. Susan dreams about Karen and witnesses Karen being pursued by a serial killer known as the Night Stalker (although the credits call him "Needletooth). In turn, Karen awakens each morning to find her face bruised. She's convinced that someone is coming into her house at night and beating and raping her while she sleeps. Susan visits a hypnotherapist, Dr. Woodleigh (Toby Stephens), to try and deal with her nightmares, while Karen makes preparations to fight back against the killer. But, the question remains, is Susan dreaming of Karen, or is Karen dreaming of Susan?

As mentioned above, it takes a subtle approach to make one of these films work. For an example, look no further than Jacob's Ladder where the "Did I just see what I think I saw?" technique has a chilling effect. Dark Corners opens with two scenes which are essentially unconnected with the rest of the film and then we jump directly into Susan and Karen's lives. There's no slow buildup, as we get to know one character and then are suddenly placed in the other's world. No, writer/director Ray Gower decides to hit the ground running and the film immediately begins to shift back and forth between the two worlds. I imagine that this was meant to be jarring, but it's simply confusing. What's this movie about? Why is Thora Birch playing two people? Is one story taking place in the past? (The dingy look of Karen's world could lead some people to believe this.)

The movie is further hampered by the fact that nothing here makes sense. The "twist" ending is meant to be shocking, but it is honestly beyond explanation. The movie wants us to believe that something which happens near the end of the first act has an effect on the overall story, but that's not possible, as Karen's/Susan's problems were happening before this event occurred. I watched the ending twice and was more confused the second time. The events in the movie don't really add up either. Towards the end of the film, I think that we were supposed to believe that Karen and Susan's worlds were overlapping, but I got the feeling that Gower had simply run out of ideas.

Again, I really enjoy "What is real?" movies and it's a shame that Dark Corners is an utter failure, because it does have at least two things going for it. Birch is good in her two roles, as she's forced to play someone who is light and perky (at times) and someone who is dark and frightened. Some of the editing in the movie is quite good, as the cuts between the two worlds are well done. I can't know Gower for his concept, as the light and dark worlds play like a small-scale version of Silent Hill, but the movie is confusing and boring (I fell asleep twice while trying to watch it). I may not be sure what is real, but I know that Dark Corners is real bad.

Dark Corners awakens from its own nightmare courtesy of Union Station Media and Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1, but the transfer is not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs, despite the DVD case's assertions to the contrary. The image looks OK, but the lack of an anamorphic transfer is inexcusable. The picture is clear and there are no defects from the source material. But, the image is also somewhat dark and flat looking. While the picture looks good, if you happened to walk in while someone was watching this, you'd probably assume that it was on standard cable, and not from a DVD. The disc holds a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some nice stereo effects, and the bass is notable during the shock scenes. But, I noted no overt surround effects.

The Dark Corners DVD holds two extras. A 13-minute "Behind-the-scenes featurette" offers many comments from writer/director Ray Gower. Well, I think it was him, as no one in this piece is identified. We also get some brief interviews with the actors. There is a nice amount of on-set footage, and Gower shows a great deal of enthusiasm for the project. The only other extra is a trailer for Dark Corners.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long.