Friday, February 3, 2012

Nevermore Flashback: Dark Souls (2010)

With Nevermore 2012 just weeks away, I've decided to post some reviews of films that I saw there last year. These will include a mix that range from low-budget features and short films to some films which have since gotten wider releases. These reviews were originally posted on my personal blog (which no longer exists). I'll be posting reviews and info from this year's fest later on in February. In the meantime, enjoy!

Dark Souls (Mørke Sjeler) hails from Norway and is an intermittently effective zombie/slasher mash-up. Its zombification is an ultra-slow-acting illness, and the film occasionally uses this to flirt with some interesting ideas. Despite the fact that there are some definite high points, in the end it more or less boils down to a rehash of a lot of what you’ve seen before.

I knew it was going to be a good weekend at Nevermore when I walk straight from work into a scene where a dude in an orange jumpsuit bores a hole in a jogger’s head with a drill. Things start to get weird when the girl appears back at her home after the police have pronounced her dead. She must spend a lot of time sitting silently in her room and looking listlessly at her computer monitor, because her dad takes a pretty long time to realize that she’s not her usual self. She’s near catatonic, and her skin has turned all black and splotchy. The doctors aren’t sure what to do, especially when she starts vomiting up tarry black goo, but for some reason her father thinks he can take better care of her and brings her home. Is this the start of a zombie outbreak? Sort of. There's a quiet, almost sad span of the film where we're given a chance to empathize with the girl's father as he slowly comes to terms with the fact that his daughter's illness may be terminal. Or even worse - interminable. From here, things take somewhat of an unexpected turn - rather than having a full-out panic-stricken zombie apocalypse scenario, news of similar attacks slowly begins to surface, and the girl’s father starts investigating the situation on his own. This isn’t a naturally occurring virus, obviously, so the question is: why is it happening, and who is in charge?

The overall atmosphere is the best thing about the film - it’s dark, grimy, and features bursts of intense violence amplified by the grinding soundtrack. But there’s nothing new here for anyone who’s followed European horror for the last decade or so, and unfortunately there are also more than a few missteps. These include several "why doesn't he..." moments where the characters don’t think to do simple things like turn on the lights when they hear something crawling down a dark hallway, or drill the main bad guy in the head when he’s just sitting there looking at them. We're not deprived of answers to the mysteries here, but ambiguity might have been a better option in retrospect. There’s a botched attempt at exposition toward the end in the form of a bum that literally just wanders out of a bush and starts talking. Why?

I can see this eventually working its way over to the US as a DVD release [Note: I haven't heard anything about this since last year...], and it wouldn’t be a terrible rental if you’re looking for another foreign zombie film that’s marginally different from the rest of them.

5.5/10 = Worth a look if it ever makes it to video

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