Paul Soter is best known for being part of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, who have made classic films like Super Troopers and Club Dread. However, Paul Soter is also a lover of horror films, and his new film, Dark Circles, shows this. Dark Circles is more a psychological thriller with elements of horror added in – and it works. New parents Alex and Penny move to a secluded house in the country to get away from the stress of the city. Soon, however, they discover that the baby’s constant need for attention will be draining on their health. Also, the house isn’t as quiet as they hoped it’d be.
Dark Circles plays on the idea of sleep deprivation and forces the viewer to question everything that is happening to the characters. The parents are constantly seeing visions of a woman that the viewer is convinced must be a paranormal apparition of some sort. There are many levels of twisted imagery that we are constantly being spun through. This works for the most part, but after a while, the concept becomes a bit longwinded. While Penny and Alex both have their separate struggles – Penny is trying to paint the nursery and be a good mother and Alex is a struggling composer – the extent of their heated arguments seems a bit forced at times. Despite these shortcomings, the movie is jarring and disturbing for the most part.
What is great about Dark Circles is that it takes an overdone concept and makes it fresh again. Where we end up in the climax and conclusion is far different than what is expected out of a generic cookie cutter Hollywood film. Soter proves that he is on a different level of thinking when it comes to his writing and direction – and it’s incredibly refreshing. The film may not be perfect in every way, but at least it is putting forth the effort to be original – and it is doing so in a manner that is not a “Hey! Look at me!” It is subtle and elegant in the way it goes about telling its story and it doesn’t boast that it’s a beautiful and unique snowflake. This, in my opinion, is what the horror industry needs right now.
Unfortunately, the box art shows a different film than what is given. The close up of an eye with a mysterious reflection of a woman vaguely resembles Soter’s work. The tagline “Sleep when you’re dead.” also seems placed there as a marketing gimmick and it’s a bit of a shame, because the film could easily be placed in the ranks of films like The Sixth Sense. The DVD includes commentary with Soter, which is great to listen to if you know him only from Broken Lizard. The same goes for the Behind the Scenes featurette. I rarely enjoy these features as much as I did this one – especially having watched the movie before realizing who exactly Paul Soter was.
Dark Circles may be packaged as a paranormal horror film, however it plays on a deeper level. If anyone was to ever question how good of a person – or even a parent – they may be while under the deepest levels of stress imaginable – Dark Circles definitely taps into what the answer might be.