Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
November 16th, 2004

Reign in Darkness

Directed by David W. Allen
Kel Dolen

Okay...if you ever wanted a convoluted, unnecessarily complicated movie about vampires, where the writers and directors are either so hard up for cash or so egomaniacal that they take the starring roles in their OWN MOVIE, then Reign In Darkness is just the ticket for you.

Get this.

"The virus, K-17, portrayed in this motion picture is believed to be real and existing in our society today."

This is their opening screen. Just some text that says exactly what I said in quotes. First off, I want to know just who it is who BELIEVES this virus to be real and existing in our society today. The filmmakers? Because I'm sure they believe it to exist. If they make somebody think this is real it'll boost their rentals and sales like no tomorrow.

But anyway, real or otherwise, what K-17 does is turn people into vampires. Really nasty ones that rip things to bits and pieces in psychopathic blood rages, including our biological researcher / hero of the story, Michael Dorn.

And no, it's NOT Commander Worf. I know, I know...I was expecting the big black guy with the basso profundo that made Barry White sound like the lost member of the Chipmunks. I was as disappointed as you no doubt are to see this spindly white guy instead.

So that the False Dorn (which is what I'm gonna call this guy for the rest of the column--I refuse to dignify his name by mentioning it) has been infected with K-17, he's going to take care of business by going out and hunting up every vampire on the face of the earth. And apparently, there's a whole bunch of people who aren't too pleased with that idea, so they send a bounty hunter and ANOTHER vampire to kill the False Dorn.

Criminy, how many vampires are there in this picture, anyway? Can't tell the vampires without a score card....

And you know what? I haven't been with this bounty hunter for more than a half hour, and I already can't stand him. First off, he's got this horrible, horrible accent. Lahke sum kahnd of thick twangy thang, almost a patois. And worst off, he won't. Stop. TALKING. The guy talks like he's at a Republican Party fundraiser whenever he's on screen.

And the False Dorn is no better. Not only does he narrate, he also has loads upon loads of dialogue. Yap, yap, yap....whether it's what he's doing right now or what he's thinking about or what he's planning to do later, he's telling us about it. It's a wonder he hasn't come out with "I was, at that moment, never hungrier for nachos." And the narration is so dry and written in such a substandard manner that listening to it makes me CRINGE.

Reign in Darkness is possibly one of the strangest movies I've seen in a long time. It blends dry, pale dialogue that stretches for what seems like hours in with some brief moments of pulsepounding action. It's like alphabet soup flavored with habaneros--bland but not actively tasteless base with a few instances of truly horrifying heat. It has more peaks and valleys than a relief map of the Himalayas.

If only there were a way to balance them all out...then maybe we'd have a pretty good movie on our hands. But we really can't, so that leaves us with a bit of a quandary.

Is Reign in Darkness any freaking GOOD?

Yes, actually. But not very. It is a firm entry in the "average, dull" category, just one more brick in the wall. Another part of the grim and occasionally gleeful procession of mediocrity that pretty much sums up the concept of the direct-to-video industry.

The ending is a long-winded yawnfest in which people who exist by drinking the blood of unwilling victims moralize at their audience for five full minutes about greed and non-green politics. I couldn't believe it. Vampires were telling ME how evil I was because I polluted the atmosphere. I killed the spotted owl, and this somehow makes me a more vicious, horrible monster than the guy who rips out human throats nightly.

Pot to kettle: you are BLACK.

Better yet, according to the vampires, HIV was created in government labs to kill off drug dealers and homosexuals. Wow...somebody's been reading his "Hollow Earth" backissues.

The extra features, such as they are, include a behind the scenes featurette and trailers for "Reign in Darkness," "Wish You Were Dead," "Hellion: the Devil's Playground," and "Blood Moon."

So, all in all, Reign in Darkness isn't actively offensive, but isn't terribly good either. If they'd stop talking for a little while, and start actually DOING something a little more often, maybe they could have picked things up.

Scare Crow

Directed by Emmanuel Itier
Bill Cunningham

So, anybody up for a good old fashioned round of "More of The Same?" No? Well, then you'd better not get your hands on a copy of Scare Crow, because that's exactly what it is.

Scare Crow can be summed up in one basic and heartbreakingly simple sentence.

It's just a sloppy version of Eight Mile where Marshall dies and comes back as a homicidal scarecrow instead of becoming an iconic rapper.

Seriously, that's ALL.

The long and the short of this poor, sad wreckage is a sensitive, artistic young man (read: geek with the horrific name of Lester Dwervick) pursues from afar (obviously) a girl who is young, lovely, and athletically inclined (read: cheerleader, or girl who is so far out of his league it's like watching a sandlot team try to hit pitches in Fenway Park).

When our poor, sensitive, artistic young man can no longer take the abuse heaped on him by his schoolmates, his promiscuous skank of a mother, and pretty much everybody within a fifty foot radius of him at any given time, he turns to occultic and bloodthirsty fantasies of revenge for solace.

Following the final indignity, his death at the hands of the drunken redneck monster who was screwing his mother this week. But the FINAL indignity is when his death notice appears in the local paper, with the headline "Emerald Grove youth takes his own life--graduation proceeds as planned." Soon our sensitive, artistic young man returns from the dead in a puff of confusing backstory, and follows that up by chopping up damn near everybody in sight by way of payback and possible sheer amusement as the ultra-evil and highly powerful Scare Crow.

You know, this is how Columbine got started.

You'd figure that these at least one of these kids would have one thought before they die, and realize that making fun of the geeks anymore is like buying a lottery ticket in the all-states Super Grim Reaper Lotto.

Thankfully, there's one brave soul willing to stand up on the poor guy's behalf, but she's frequently swatted down in cries of assorted vulgar synonyms for lesbian.

You know, there's a certain charm in this, as everyone who was ever mean to poor Lester gets his in a violent and nasty end. It is the very personification of simple justice. You can't help but feel bad for poor Lester (nor can you help referring to him as POOR Lester)--the movie is all but designed to evoke sympathy for him. It's as heavy-handed as Hellboy, but what can you do?

Expect a GOOD script, maybe? No, that's just far too much to expect.

And as if all this weren't bad enough, the Scare Crow favors PUNS when he kills.

The ending is even worse, slides off into this great literary mush, advancing what amounts to three endings. And it's also dedicated to fifty dozen horror mavens, including "il maestro" Dario Argento.

This is quite possibly the biggest slap in the face to true horror fans out there.

For them to call DARIO ARGENTO the master proves the caliber of people we're dealing with. Argento hijacked the entire zombie genre from the Grand Old Man himself, George Romero. Argento actually studied UNDER Romero, in widely acknowledged admissions. They call a THIEF the master and put HIS master in the small-font list of every horror writer and director they ever read after that.

But anyway.

Extra features include Spanish subtitles, a behind the scenes featurette, and an outtake reel. Plus, we get trailers for Scare Crow, a local version and an international version. We're EXPORTING this crap.

Now that's what I call an international incident....

So all in all, if you're desperate to see Tiffany Shepis (who's terribly hot, by the way, even with that bowl haircut she's wearing in this), or just another hack-n-slay cut-n-paste horror flick, knock yourself out.

The more refined among you may prefer TO knock yourself out rather than sit through this formulaic garbage.