Nick Basile’s DARK is a perfect storm of awesome.
Main Cast: Whitney Able, Alexandra Breckenridge
Director: Nick Basile
During the 2003 NYC blackout, a young woman named Kate finds herself having a whole mess of problems dealing with being left alone in her girlfriend’s apartment overnight.
Kate (Whitney Able, Monsters) has recently moved in with Leah, just as Leah (Alexandra Breckenridge, “The Walking Dead”) has to go out of town for a family thing. She’ll be back Sunday, she says. Kate, meanwhile, is having some problems adjusting to her new surroundings, adjusting to her new career–she’s given up modeling and is now teaching yoga–and seemingly adjusting to life in general. This girl’s got issues, some of which are manifested in a pair of old scars across her wrist. But she decides to be strong and make it through the weekend on her own. Have fun, Leah, and I’ll see you Sunday.
And then, only a few hours in, the power goes out across the city. Kate is now left alone in a new apartment with no power, nothing to do, and a series of very creepy noises coming from the building. And, let’s face it, Kate is NOT the kind of person who can handle spending too much time with herself. At the invite of a next door neighbor, she heads down the street to a bar where she meets a visiting tourist named Benoit, played by the ever-interesting Michael Eklund (The Divide) who is, in my opinion, greatly underused in this movie.
They chat and flirt, Kate offers him something to help make sure he wants to return to NYC, and Benoit politely declines.
We’re both drunk, he says, and this is when people make bad choices.
Kate, who already has enough self esteem issues to fill an auditorium, takes Ben’s no thank you as an insult and instead takes the drunken walk home alone and pissed off. Maybe going home wasn’t the right move, however, as her mental state continues to deteriorate as the night progresses.
There’s a lot of greatness in this movie. For starters, the script by Elias (Nightmare Men) paints Kate as a fully-realized three dimensional woman with a history, with thoughts and feelings, with opinions and, in her darkest of moments, those fears and doubts we all have in common. But Elias never lets the dialogue sound like it’s been written.
Nick Basile’s (American Carny) direction is another plus. He’s able to create this atmosphere that feels inviting and homey in one instance and claustrophobic and threatening the next. He is able to use the camera to convey Kate’s descent as the night wears on with utter clarity and straightforwardness. There’s never a doubt in the viewer’s mind that Kate is on a heavy downward slide.
Also on my list of things to love about DARK has to be the soundtrack. While I recognized none of the songs, every one of them were catchy as hell and made me wish there was a soundtrack available for this movie. I’d probably find myself playing it nonstop for a while. And the placement of the songs, even when Kate puts a CD into her CD player–this was 2003, remember?–still, the songs never call the wrong kind of attention to themselves and each one flows and feels like a natural extension of Basile’s storytelling.
The best thing about this movie, though, has to be Whitney Able’s performance. I’ve only seen her a few times before, and I don’t recall Monsters giving her even half the opportunities to shine as DARK does. She completely embraces this character and her ordeal and brings the viewer so up close and into her sphere that we feel her anxiety and despair as the night goes on.
And not for nothing, but if she ever gets tired of being Whitney Able, she’s got an excellent career ahead of her as Jennifer Jason Leigh. The resemblance was actually distracting from time to time.
While I wish there had been more for Alexandra Breckenridge to do, overall DARK was a very good movie, well told both in the script and on screen, with some top notch performances from everyone with a speaking role. So if you like your psychological thrillers super intense and effective, DARK is the way to go, if you ask me.