(Leif Jonker, US, 1995)
A group of teenagers return home from a concert to find their home town has been infested by zombie-like vampires craving for blood. These undead demons are led by a master who intends to spread his plague as far and wide as possible. It is up to the teenagers to try and stop his plans. That is pretty much the scenario in this typical release from Screen Edge. Shot on colour super 8mm, Leif Jonker's first full-length feature is a competent enough if unimaginative entry into genre filmmaking. This type of low-budget early work favoured by the Edge label is heavily derivative of the director's influences and this works against Darkness. There is nothing in this that we haven't seen before, but unlike the highly entertaining (but equally derivative) The Dead Next Door also released by Screen Edge, director Jonker doesn't manage to display what sets him apart from the hundreds of other fan-directors around the world that manage to get their act togther to release a feature. The biggest asset for the film is its overtly grim tone. Jonker says he yearns for the days of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween - films that really did scare their audiences; and this is evident - there is little or no humour throughout its 90-minute running time and credit to him for sticking to his principles in this respect.
The production is fairly good for colour super 8mm - although the extensive nighttime shooting makes it hard going for a crew having to use mostly natural ambient lighting. The constant running around by teenagers who wear tight jeans, trainers and bad 'rock band' T-shirts at night reminds one of The Warriors - since the kids here are facing a similar predicament - they were trying to get home only to be chased by thugs (of one kind or another!). The film's most impressive feature are its stunning (considering the budget) special effects. Blood flows everywhere in this film! It spurts, pours, gushes and a wide array of internal organs follow closely behind. The outrageous finale aside, the gore here is more shocking than it is in the thematically similar but light-hearted The Dead Next Door. The murders are realistically brutal and are more likely to have viewers grimacing than anything else. Like many of the artists who find their way onto the Screen Edge label, Jonker has since gone on to other projects and I suspect that he, like others there, will take a while to reach their full potential.