Darkness Reigns follows filmmaker, Daniel (Zachary Mooren), as he goes to the premiere of his new film, Darkness Reigns, a documentary of a tragedy that happened on a film set one year prior. We then get to witness the footage of this doomed movie. Daniel and his friend, Aaron (Ford Fanter), are hired to film the behind-the-scenes DVD extras for a horror movie called Defanatus Soul, starring Starship Troopers’ Casper Van Dien. The film is shooting on location in a hotel that is supposedly haunted. Both Daniel and medium/technical adviser, Sidney (Peter Mayer), can sense something is wrong, but before they can do anything about it, the evil strikes killing most of the crew and trapping the rest inside the hotel. Now the survivors must find a way out before their souls are claimed by the evil that resides in the hotel.
Darkness Reigns is a fairly typical found-footage horror movie. It reminded me a lot of some of the shorts in the V/H/S series, but extended to feature length, for better or for worse… but mostly for worse. There are some spooky moments and some really creepy imagery throughout the film and, for the most part, those moments deliver. Some of the gore effects are truly excellent and there is one really effective jump scare that isn’t just something flying at the camera with loud noises blaring.
Now, I’m pretty much over the found-footage movies. They’ve gotten stale and the character’s reasoning for holding onto the camera is usually a bunch of malarkey. By the end of the movie, Darkness Reigns as least gives us a decent reason why Daniel holds onto the camera for the entire film.
I did enjoy the setting of the film being a movie set, as I have worked on sets in the past, but I don’t know if people who aren’t in the industry in some capacity will appreciate that. It was fun to see Casper Van Dien playing himself as an overly serious, somewhat diva-esque actor and they don’t overdo it either.
The evil spirit’s initial attack on the film crew is easily the best scene of the movie. It starts with a bang and gives us some excellent carnage, memorably sick imagery, and some great energy. This scene got my hopes up for the rest of the movie, which didn’t deliver, but at least it had one truly great scene.
Finally, I did enjoy Peter Mayer’s performance as Sidney, the medium. He is so nonchalant and apathetic about what is happening. Everyone else is losing their minds and he’s pretty much shrugging everything off. It’s an interesting spin on what could have easily been a stock character, and Sidney is the best character because of that.
The biggest problem with this film is the protagonist. Daniel is whiny and irritating. Occasionally, he speaks directly to the audience and it’s beyond annoying. He comes off as pretentious and insufferable for the vast majority of the move, which are typically not characteristics you want your protagonist to have.
I also despise the framing device this movie uses where we start in the present and the majority of the movie is essentially a flashback. It removes some of the tension because we know Daniel is going to survive. Any time he’s in danger we can shrug it off because we know he will make it out. I’ve definitely seen these storytelling devices executed worse in other movies, but it’s still not great here.
The third act of this movie is pretty wretched, both in the documentary and in the present, at the premiere of Daniel’s film. The confrontation with the evil spirit is just dumb. The creature looks terrible, the final conflict is uninteresting, and it simply isn’t creepy or scary enough. And it gets worse when we get back to the premiere. I really don’t understand what the point of this final sequence was. I won’t spoil it, but it does nothing interesting. You could have cut it out of the movie and lost nothing, in fact, it would have improved the film.
Darkness Reigns Verdict:
Darkness Reigns definitely has some cool moments and ideas. The setting and the gore are solid, Peter Mayer is fun, and there are a few memorable sequences, with the one really cool jump scare. But the protagonist sucks, the framing structure deflates a lot of the tension, and the third act of the film ranges between idiotic and pointless. For these reasons, it’s not a movie I can recommend, but it’s not complete trash by any means.
For those that want to check it out, you can find it on Amazon or other distributors on VOD July 10.
Note: This film was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.