A Darker Reality (Chris Kazmier, 2008)
About ten minutes into A Darker Reality, I started looking for information about the movie online—specifically, I wanted to see if The Ghost (played by Homicide: Life on the Street‘s Daniel Baldwin), the movie’s serial killer, was based on a real-life guy (at the beginning, his narration sounds like he’s writing letters to the cops or the press, rather than keeping a diary, so I figured maybe he was based on Zodiac). Because unless this movie is based at least partially in reality, what would have been the point of making it? It’s Just Another Torture Porn Piece of Crap(TM) otherwise. Unfortunately, my searchings, which lasted for the rest of the movie, turned up squat. As far as I can tell, The Ghost sprung full-fledged from the brain of creator Chris Kazmier. The movie’s writing credit goes to the amusingly-named Sxv’leithan Essex (responsible for the similarly-awful Bled the following year), but the movie is oft-quoted on the net as a “reimaging” (I’d assume they meant “reimagining” if I hadn’t seen that particular term in so many different places) of the Kazmier-written 2006 feature Dark Reality, so I’m blaming The Ghost on Kazmier, not Essex.
Plot: The Ghost, as I’ve already mentioned, is a serial killer, responsible so far for the disappearances of eighty-five women in… umm, I think it’s supposed to be LA (it’s definitely somewhere in California) (and I don’t remember if I picked that stat up from the movie itself or from a review of the flick, so apologies on that). Some of them are still alive in, presumably, the basement of the house he shares with his mentally challenged, equally sadistic brother Newt (Man Overboard‘s Arthur Bullock, one of the actors reprising his role from Dark Reality). The cops haven’t been able to get anywhere near this guy, but suddenly they catch two breaks at once: Carey Andrews (The Fourth Kind‘s Alisha Seaton, also returning) is the first of the Ghost’s victims to escape alive and is under the treatment of psychologist Jesse Metcalfe (Downloading Nancy‘s Sunny Doench), while Quail (Ghost Rider‘s Jonathan Oldham), a prisoner, reveals to Det. Alex Belasco (Late Autumn‘s James C. Burns), who locked him up, that Quail had an online relationship with The Ghost when he was out in the world—and hints that he may know details the police hasn’t uncovered yet. The cops don’t know, but the audience does, that as of the movie’s opening, five of the Ghost’s abductees, aside from Carey, remain alive—Gina (Elena Undone‘s Heather Howe), Karen (Crazy, Stupid, Love.‘s Grasie Mercedes), Amber (Crank 2‘s Anne Girard), Kim (Laila Dagher in her final onscreen role—she’s now a successful post-production coordinator for a number of reality TV series) and The Ghost’s newest acquisition, Becca (Get Him to the Greek‘s Alma Grey Saraci). Can the cops get to Ghost and Newt before they torture another girl to death?
We’ll start with the bad points, then move to the good. Oh, wait: “good” doesn’t apply to this movie. Every point there is to be made is bad, from the acting (Heather Howe’s uproarious “click, click!” scene will haunt her for the rest of her career) to the music (the less said about it the better) to even the closed captioning. It’s bad enough that you can’t hire someone to closed-caption your movie who can’t tell the difference between “lose” and “loose” (an error consistent throughout the film), but things get nakedly offensive when every woman in captivity is referred to by her name except Karen, who is consistently labelled as “Black Girl” in the captions. For the love of Swedish fish… I will give the movie one thing: the final plot twist, and it’s obvious the entire film was built around this idea, is actually pretty good. Problem is, Essex (I assume this one is Essex’s dropping of the ball, though it may be Kazmier’s—I could answer a lot of questions for myself by hunting down Dark Reality, but I have zero desire to do so) tips Ghost’s hand on that one way too early. Had they waited for the final scene, where he drops the other bomb, and put both together, it could have been a pretty decent one-two punch. Not that it would have been enough to save this movie, which feels like a Lucifer Valentine-esque fetish movie that Kazmier and Essex tried to dress up with a plot (except that instead of vomit, Kazmier’s depicted fetish is torture). Half a star only because I finished it, and while it treads dangerously close to the line, it doesn’t quite hit the level of offensive that causes me to give something a zero-star rating. Full disclosure, though: just after I finished watching the film, I put a goose egg in the rating column on the spreadsheet. This morning (I’m writing the review the next day), I revised it up to 0.5, rationalizing that the whole “Black Girl” fiasco (which IS offensive enough for a zero-star rating, IMO) may be Netflix’s fault, not Kazmier’s—I don’t know whether the closed captions exist on the DVD or were added by Netflix. ½
A Darker Trailer.