Thursday, May 08, 2008

A candle in the Dark – review

Directed by: Richard Poche

Release date: 2002

Contains spoilers

This is a tough one to review being a short film (35 minutes) and of an obviously low budget. It is the sort of thing I’d like to have stumbled across as a freebie as it would have received an ‘honourable mention’ but as it is commercially available (I have it in the ‘Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares’ set), I am forced to review it. In comparison to some other films of this budget/quality it does have something going for it. It also has a lot of minus points – not least of all the lighting, which is poor throughout.

We start of in a police cell and a man, we later discover to be Luke (Cliff Poche), is being interviewed about a series of disappearances/murders on the college campus. He talks about the murder of Wendy (Shelby Barendrick), one of the first to go. We hear his explanation as we see her plight inter-cut. He says that *they* sense fear, that *they* can be hurt by conventional means but it takes longer – if a single bullet would drop a human then it might need seven to deal with one of *them*.

The story then concentrates on Sarah (Kirstin McLaughlin), a college student who is with her friend Allison (Kirsten Finkas). Sarah is moving to college and Allison is helping with the move. We note that Allison’s concerns are with the normal things in life – boyfriend trouble at this point – but Sarah seems distracted by maudlin thoughts.

In the house we see Sarah put a cross up as she gets her gear unpacked and then the two girls hear the news and the reports of the murder of Wendy – someone Sarah knew. Suddenly the lights go out – Sarah has been warned about rolling blackouts – but the door handle starts to turn. There is some panic, thoughts of calling the cops and then a woman comes in and introduces herself as Lilith (Alexandra Ackerman), Sarah’s roommate.

The two girls seem very different; Lilith seems a little Goth and does not have too much compassion for what happened to Wendy. Sarah is religious, regularly going to a bible group and concerned that Lilith wears clothing of too sluttish a style (they looked rather conservative to me). The cross from Sarah’s room vanishes and she accuses Lilith of removing it. When Lilith goes out she searches for the cross in Lilith’s room but does not find it. She does find pictures of herself and all her friends. Lilith seems sensitive to sunlight and Sarah recognises a lighter in Lilith’s possession belonged to a security guard named Frank (Joe Costales), who has been murdered.

Sarah dreams. In her dream she is reciting the 23rd psalm. She sees Luke enter into a mausoleum and follows. Eventually she catches up with him and Lilith is with him, Lilith bites his neck. Sarah wakes up screaming and Lilith is stood above her, claiming she heard the sounds of a bad dream. Later Lilith explains that she isn’t coming home that evening but when Sarah rifles through her room again she finds a note saying ‘stay out of my stuff’.

With another friend murdered, Sarah researches vampires. We see her looking at ‘Salem’s Lot, reading up on Draculea, Báthory and the mythological Lilith. We hear her say that symbols of faith only work if the wielder believes. There is obviously at least one vampire out there; is it Lilith and is she alone?

The film does well, story wise, with what it has but there are some aspects that are just too curtailed due to the running length. There are other aspects that seem muddled and unexplained, plus I noticed at least one dialogue continuity error. This error was minor, in the grand scheme of things, but noticeable and thus sloppy.

The acting is actually quite alright for what the film is. There is a large amount of dialogue – it is very talky in places, and it feels fairly natural. It is not the best I have ever seen, by a long shot, but given the inexperienced level of cast and crew any issues are forgivable. ‘Enthusiastic amateurs’ was the phrase that sprang to mind.

The film does play with expectations, in the finale, but it is too short to really explore that aspect in as much depth as I would have liked. All in all it isn’t too bad an effort compared to many of the straight to video efforts; however it isn’t great cinema either – not by a very long shot. A crash course in lighting is definitely needed and the sound mix is off with soundtrack overpowering dialogue in places. Some of the scene set ups were corny. Free on the net I’d be saying watch it, parting with money for it is another matter.

I vacillated between giving this a score of 2 and a score of 3. 3 felt too high, to be perfectly honest, and yet 2 seemed awfully cruel. In the end I decided to sit on the fence and go for 2.5 out of 10. Interesting but very flawed.

The imdb page is here.

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