Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bloody Nightmares #1: A Candle In The Dark (2002)


Idea time. How about.. "Vampires attack Christian College"? Not bad, eh? Well, I suppose the abundance of crucifixes and holy water might lead to an "aliens in Signs" situation, but maybe these particular vampires are looking for a challenge. It beats the easy picking in Alaska. But it will be the audience who are in for a challenge in watching Richard Poche's A Candle In The Dark as they contend with bad performances, worse production values, and not even the common decency to include some ridiculous gore or gratuitous nudity to keep things interesting. For shame.

Kirstin McLaughlin stars as Sarah, a student at the Christian College who begins suspecting her trashy roommate Lilith (Alexandra Ackerman) after a series of murders on the campus. She turns to Luke (Cliff Poche) and his bible study group to help, but after retreating to Luke's house Sarah is attacked by (wait for it) Vampires and is barely saved by (*spoiler*) Lilith. They try to escape, but their car breaks down and Lilith is, um, killed somehow. Sarah runs really, really far and is cornered by the world's fattest vampire before drawing a cross with her own blood. Clever.


The story is told by Luke as he's apparently being interrogated, though his character doesn't witness most of the major events, and most of his dialogue (when you can hear it) doesn't seem to jive with the rest of the movie. Also, he's a fucking vampire. These segments seem to serve only to pad the short 40 minute running time.

Let's start with the positives. The acting isn't all terrible. Kirstin McLaughlin is competent in the lead, and Alexandra Ackerman as Lilith appears to at least be comfortable in front of the camera. The director manages to wring a little suspense out of some early scenes, and there's a dream sequence at a mausoleum that is well constructed, though is handicapped because it reminded me how I would much rather be watching Phantasm.


The rest of the film is below average even for a shot on video production. Most of the acting is just plain amateurish, particularly in the few "news broadcasts" shown and in a terrible scene where a character stumbles over the word "satanic" (and some other lines) but the results are left in the film. This sort of lazy production work plagues the whole movie, from video glitches to lines of dialogue being completely drowned out by the music. The interrogation scenes are almost unintelligible, and the lighting in most of the indoor scenes leave things dark and murky.

As mentioned, the actual idea behind the film has a bit of promise, but it plays out like an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer devised by mental patients. When some action finally occurs in the last ten minutes, it's hampered by lame gun and make-up effects and some lousy editing. Throw in some awful comic relief from the obese campus head of security (who later manages to somehow keep pace with out lead actress in a footrace), and you have a mess of a movie. And nobody gets naked.


A Candle In The Dark is presented in what appears to be its original 1.78:1 ratio. The dark scenes feature a lot of noise, but this is likely a limitation of the equipment used during filming. This is probably as good as this film can look, which is rather unfortunate. The audio is consistently awful, with several outdoors scenes plagued by wind. The music was apparently composed by the director, and I don't remember hating it so good for him.

The best thing that can be said about A Candle In The Dark is that at least it's only 40 minutes. Developing the concept a little more, and showing a bit more vampiric action could have at least kept attention away from some of the obvious shortcomings, but we're instead left with one boring talky scene after another.

This is not a good start. 99 more to go.


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