Darkness: The Vampire Version (V)

Where else but in the underground independent scene would you find a splatterific gold nugget like this one? Apparently the director, Leif Jonker, and some of his crew sold their blood to partially finance the film. Now that’s dedication to your craft. Shot on Super 8 for about two months salary, Darkness is an über-gory splatter epic combining elements of Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, and the similar vampire gore-fest, Near Dark.

The plot involves a lone vampire who rolls into a small town to turn its hapless residents into raging blood-sucking, flesh-eating zombies. Only a small group of teens notice what is happening, and they band together to fight off the attack as the vampire numbers grow and threaten to take over the town. Is the apocalypse upon them, or can they survive until sunrise?

I am loathe to simply call this a vampire film, as it’s got more in common with the splatter zombie classics of the 70’s and 80’s than any of the glamorous blood-sucker films in recent memory. In fact, there are no Anne Rice, homo-erotic Brad Pitt’s here – Jonker’s monsters are hard core flesh-eating machines who just happen to dislike sunlight and holy water. They’re sort of a vampire-zombie hybrid (a vombie? zampire?), perhaps created to help amp up the gore factor by a few notches…er…OK, many notches!

Make no mistake about it though, this one screams bargain-basement budget, and the look of the film is pretty darn terrible. Some of the darker scenes are difficult to make out, and over the entire running time the transfer is marred with scratches and shakiness. Jonker uses an interesting tactic, however, in keeping the time of the film, since daylight is such an important factor. Basically, he shows the time relative to the sunrise or sunset in a written caption on-screen, so we know how long everyone has until hell breaks loose, or conversely, goes to bed. It’s pretty effective, but some of the time the poor lighting makes it seem more like midday than near dark. No matter though – most genre fans can easily shrug off the budgetary restrictions, as I did, and would have no problem with these aspects.

Darkness is easily one of the goriest films I have seen in a long time, right from start to finish. It has that “independent schlock” look that is often used in low-budget splatter comedies, with buckets of red corn syrup being thrown around and various limbs and organs being removed liberally. Except, this is no comedy and nothing is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. This aspect was very refreshing to say the least! It is definitely the film’s strongpoint and there is a certain enthusiasm in the gruesome effects which you simply can’t ignore.

The cast is a ragtag group of high school kids, so the acting is predictably mediocre. And there are some moments of confusion, which perhaps improved editing or a clearer storyline would have taken care of. For instance, at one point our main character is attacked by a guy wielding a chainsaw, and it takes a few minutes to catch on that it is one of the monsters, who we learn use all types of tools in conjunction with their fangs to mangle their victims. It’s also never quite clear what kills the creatures and what doesn’t – some survive sunlight for some time, and some die with a simple gunshot wound. Oh, and where the heck did he come up with a 2-litre bottle of holy water out of nowhere? Anyway, the gore factor far surpasses and eclipses any of these logical musings, and I doubt anyone actually renting or purchasing this is expecting anything more!

Darkness: The Vampire Version has a distinct independent charm that only a handful of low-budget films ever really capture. For every thousand backyard, Super 8 entries into the horror genre, there are one or two diamonds in the rough. This film is definitely one of them, and as such has garnered a minor cult following. For all you jaded mainstream horror fans out there looking for an hour and a half of straight-up gory thrills, this one’s tailor-made for you – a film chock full of grisly and gruesome gut-munching goodness!

Official Score