Awkwardness. It’s a quality that is elusive to pinpoint in a film. Largely attributing to this palette polluting characteristic is dialogue, action, acting, and story. It leaves a bittersweet flavor that has more of a lingering effect than sheer disappointment and meanders in memory more so than just pure hatred for a project. Instead this one characteristic plays out like a reunion like an ex-lover. There’s bits of it you like, and you even perhaps contemplate reconnecting to rekindle the flame to see if there’s something you missed the first go-around. If you’re wise you’ll realize that hindsight isn’t meant for rose colored glasses and heartbreak is only cured with whiskey glasses. You can’t always pinpoint when things went sour, but it’s always best if you move on. Take comfort that there’s someone else willing to enjoy those misspent efforts and that you tried your best to understand it all. That’s pretty much the case with THE DARK LURKING.
This Australian farmed 2010 sci-fi horror pic directed by Gregory Connors delivers quite a recognizable clunker of a story. A research facility buried underground has broken off communications with the outside world. A team of international Mercs are sent out to plug the fan back in and find out what kind of shit just hit it. A women awakens in a sealed testing room with no recollection of how she got there, but soon she is greeted by a handful of researchers who must now band together in a plight for survival against an onslaught of what appears to be some type of mutated zombies. From here it’s pretty paint by numbers in regards to the plot. Of course they have to keep their wits about them as they try to find a way to the surface for evacuation and this survival party soon starts to lose guests thanks to all the nasties that jump from the shadows to munch them down. There’s the hero, and the sacrifice and the reveal that one in the group is not whom they seem to be, all of which is thinly veiled under the type of dialogue you’d expect more from a side scrolling video game. It’s not until the last 20 minutes that you are given what the filmmakers were hoping were a twist to the story that these zombies are really demons. Seems all this top secret research was meant to clone an organism from the fossilised remains of the first angel that fell to Earth; Lucifer. Pretty different story if they would’ve set it up that way as it ups the ante in regards to tone and the audience’s perceived conceptions from seeing films like this before.
The story tries to blend numerous elements of sci-fi terror such as EVENT HORIZON and ALIEN. This is no easy task for horror considering that the ultimate “jump the shark” moment occurs whenever the story goes to space. However in the rush to thrust the viewer into the hurricane of gun-play and special effects, the story sacrifices the proper introduction of characters and their roles. There’s the Mercs sent in to kick ass, but you never care about any of them to root for the success of their mission. The researchers serve as props that breathe until they are meant to be torn to shreds and added to the body count. The story never seems to arch, especially when the audience is thrust into the midst of trying to understand where the story is taking place. First there’s shots of these star-ships in outer space relaying satellite communiques and then they jump cut to hundreds of miles underground, which leaves a lingering sense of displacement. The acting is pretty generic, almost like wind-up stereotypes placed in the same room and forced to bounce off one another. You can’t help but wonder how this flick would’ve played with a more dynamic cast than I’m sure their budget allowed. The lead female role offered a lot of room for growth on screen that just didn’t seem to bloom, which is a bit disheartening when channeling such XX chromosome ass-kickers like Ripley from ALIEN and Alice from RESIDENT EVIL. There’s plenty of room on those Horror pedestals for more females, and plenty more room for quality science fiction horror.
Now I’m sure if you’ve read this far you’re thinking there’s little to redeem this flick, but that’s where it gets hazy. For a low-budget motion picture, the special features reveal the cadre of effects and efforts that went into creating this feature. The costumes are believeable and the weaponry is spot on. The cinematography is fluid and has the same style of hyper-tension witnessed in RESIDENT EVIL or SILENT HILL. The practical make-up effects are superb as the monsters give a look that would rival anything from CONSTANTINE in regards to demons. The gun-play is kinetic and fast paced, allowed to play out in a crescendo of violence that makes for great shoot ’em up. At times the editing moves at a pace that would make most third-person shooter video games jealous. The star-ships witnessed throughout are straight up, old school George Lucas style models and the craftsmanship shines through on screen. A viewing of the Special Features on the DVD offers a look into how many of these effects and builds were accomplished and it’s quite outstanding what this group of filmmakers were able to accomplish within the confines of their budget and studio. The labs, the tunnels & air ducts, all of it was continually re-purposed to maximize the on screen presence of their story and yet not one iota was lost in the attention to detail. The kills are a particular favorite from a rapid succession of squibs to headshots and general dismemberment which leaves plenty of blood spilled for Horror fans. I didn’t even mind the end-boss monster that was heavily influenced from ALIEN that even leaked over into the film’s cover art.
THE DARK LURKING may find more of an audience in time, or perhaps it will only serve to confound audiences long after this review. The on screen efforts serve as a hell of a calling card for future endeavors, but film school style lessons should be learned in the editing room, not at the end credits. Despite the effects coupled against the acting, what buries this film underneath the title of other B-movies is the story. It has the same energy of much of Hollywood’s attempts to deliever what they think we as an audience would like. The Dark Lurking can hold it’s head up high as the Australian DOOM, but I wouldn’t say that’s something to brag about either. With such lofty ideas of inspiration, this film never truly hits the marks it aims for despite having plenty of ammo.