Thoughts on ‘Reign in Darkness’

If you think a film about a genetically-engineered vampire hell-bent on revenge sounds interesting, you obviously haven't seen Reign in Darkness.

First, go watch the trailer if you haven’t seen the film, get an idea about what you’re about to read (reload the page if the video doesn’t show):

As a commenter of YouTube pointed out: “When a trailer has no dialogue, you know you’re in for a treat.”

When you’re done crying into your Rice Krispies, let’s get started…

What Are We Watching?

Title: Reign in Darkness

Written By: David W. Allen, Kelly Dolen

Directed By: David W. Allen, Kelly Dolen

Starring: David W. Allen, Kelly Dolen, David No

Synopsis [IMDB]: Molecular biologist Michael Dorn is accidentally infected with a new virus he is developing, turning him and its other victims into a new breed of vampire.

SPOILER ALERT

There be spoilers in this post. Question is: after watching that trailer, do you really think you’d watch this film, and therefore, will spoilers matter?

In a nutshell, the story goes like this:

Michael Dorn is a molecular biologist working on what he thinks is a cure to HIV, who is accidentally injected with something that turns him into a vampire. He exacts his revenge on those responsible, while in turn being hunted down by the corporation itself, who send bounty hunter Lance and a half-vampire called Gage.

And that’s it.

No, really. That’s it. All 90 minutes of it, and it’s a very long 90 minutes.

I don’t really know where to start.

Well, alright, let’s take it on face value, and start with the box.

This cover is a piece of marketing genius, best attributed to the film’s creators/stars/writers/directors Kel Dolen and David W. Allen being from a marketing background. They have been quoted as saying that the important part of film-making isn’t in fact the process of making the film, but rather the importance of selling and distribution. They have also stated that they had no film-making experience when they made Reign in Darkness, which explains quite a bit.

But then we get to the taglines and everything starts to go a bit squiffy:

‘An Army of Immortals…One Vampire Bounty Hunter’

First of all, there are about ten vampires, and only three of them (including the protagonist) that have lines. That’s not an army.

Army
– noun
a large body of persons trained and armed for war.

I’m being pedantic. You could have an army of nine people. I mean, EA have an Army of Two, as do the Dum Dums.

There’s no vampire bounty hunters, either. There is a bounty hunter, but he’s human. Unless they’re saying ‘one vampire bounty hunter’ as in a bounty hunter that hunts vampires (heading into “Cats like Felix…like Felix” territory), which is fine and closer to the truth, but that suggests there’s this solitary bounty hunter is going up against the vampire army. He’s not. He works for them.

Stop lying to me, Reign in Darkness! Stop trying to make yourself sound big and clever!

It starts pretty low down on the hill and only rolls further as it goes on.

The main character, Michael, or the ‘Voiceover King’, is a cock.

We’re supposed to feel bad for him on account of him becoming a vampire by mistake and having to deal with all that jazz, as well as his wife being dead or something. Goes a bit like this:

Problem is, he’s not likable. And he kills people.

Most hero types in these movies are basically ‘Reluctant Vampires’, the Louises (What the hell is the plural for Louis?), Michaels (as in ‘Lost Boys’ Michael, not this Michael) and Edwards of the vampire world. These vampires are not happy about their predicaments, and will usually go to any lengths to avoid drinking blood, or at least that of human being. Louis eats rats. Edward and his family eat deer. I think. This keeps the viewer on their side, because – yes, they are monsters – but they’re trying their damnedest not to be.

This guy, on the other hand, kills people. Just flat out kills them.

He kills this guy and then steals his clothes.

This is not a hero. This is not someone we’re rooting for. This is someone we would very much like Lance the great bounty hunter to stab in the face.

They try to gloss over his murderous streak with a throwaway line about Michael only killing people who deserve it (which is a case of figuring out how Michael, as a biologist, knows who the rapists and murderers are, whether it’s some kind of vampire radar that alerts), and then about 5 minutes later is seen attacking and killing a woman while she’s out walking with a friend. What, were there Class A drugs stuffed in her pocket? Was she on her way to a primary school to stuff them up kids’ noses?

You’re lying, Reign in Darkness! Stop lying!

So anyway, that’s the person we’re supposed to be backing, which brings us onto the people who we’re not supposed to be backing, the company (down with corporations, boooo!), and the two people they send after Michael once he runs away.

Gage and Lance.

First off, what kind of name is Gage?  It’s like Cage, only…not. Or Gaga. Or Gauge. Or anything except Gage. Reads like a spelling mistake.

And yes, Gage is played by David No from the Matrix. I don’t know what he’s doing here, either.

Both Lance and Gage are, hands down, my favourite character of the entire movie.

If you can’t tell from the bandana, the hog he rides, the biker getup or the fact that he yells in thick and wholly fake accent about how he was in “THE US MARINES, BOY”, Lance is American. Boy howdy, this guy is like the stereotype of a stereotype. As an Brit, seeing someone do a really bad impression of an American makes a nice change. Not that there isn’t someone doing exactly the same to the British, as well. His name is Ravencroft. I’ll get to him later.

Lance is assigned by the company to kill Michael, since genetically-engineered vampires – whether made by accident or not – shouldn’t really be running around the streets of whatever unnamed city they’re supposed to be in (America or Australia, I really can’t tell). They tell him to team up with the half-vampire, Gage, to help find him. I have no idea why. He serves no purpose, other than to look mildly pleasing to the eye in a scene where he’s shirtless:

(P.S. This is probably the best scene in the film. Really. And not just because Gage is shirtless. This is about the most interesting thing that happens.)

The only reason I like these two is because the interaction between them leaves a very slightly less bitter taste when compared to the rest of the characters involved. Lance hates vampires, Gage is a half-vampire. Oooo, tension! It’s about the only tension that comes up, and even that is resolved quite quickly, leaving them acting like the remnants of a ‘buddy cop’ movie when facing Michael.

The film should’ve been about them, about them hunting vampires, maybe finding out at some point that not all the vampires were evil and then they went up against the corporation.

Whatever, I’m losing myself again.

So Michael gets some weapons, and – through the power of montage (complete with voiceover, naturally) – makes some home made bombs and a bullet-proof vest (why he needs it if he’s a vampire is anyone’s guess), before going about killing more innocent people while getting to his boss. The boss dies after what is possibly the most boring car chase on Earth.

Problem is, this is all resolved by about the 60 minute mark, which leaves the last half an hour with Michael having a visit from the Exposition Fairy:

This guy turns up at Michael’s abandoned warehouse hideout and sends him down another path, where he is to face of with the real enemies.

And it all comes to a tedious conclusion when Michael arrives and has the same guy introduces himself as Raphael Ravencroft, one of the last true vampires, who then goes on to give more exposition (and this is within 10 minutes of the end of the film). Apparently, the cure for HIV Michael thought he was working on was actually a new way for vampires to…make new vampires…since human evolution has caused mankind to resist traditional teeth-in-neck turnings.

Aaaaand that’s about it. Michael has this information now, blows up some shit, and drives off. Meanwhile, we see Ravencroft (who made it out unscathed when his cohorts died horribly…by MAGIC, obviously) in a lab somewhere undisclosed with a new batch of the virus, ready to go…

Holy shit.

Who cares?

It’s not an entirely bad premise. In fact, some of the drivel spouted by Ravencroft towards the end about how vampires by their nature are incapable of evolving, for example, would have made an interesting point, but the whole thing is very poorly executed.

What makes this film so appallingly bad is the fact that the vast majority of what happens is accompanied by voiceovers from Michael himself. Michael talk about job. Michael talk about the virus. Talks about turning.  Michael needs weapons. Michael will talk about making the journey to his house while we see him driving to his fucking house.

Which, while we’re passing by, is just a big WTF moment. So Michael goes home at some point after being turned. To pick up his gun. And his sword.  His sword.  The molecular biologist has a gun strapped under a box in his house, and a SWORD. Well, of course!!!

And I for one always keep my gun strapped under a box in my hallway, because that way it’ll be nowhere near when I need it!

Basically, it’s all about telling and nothing about showing, and even when what is happening in a particular scene is very showing, there’s still voiceover.

The acting is limp, lifeless and in some places just plain painful, and it’s obvious why the entire thing just looks like a student’s attempt at paying homage to any number of other films, when you read that the creators had no film-making experience before making this. Does it excuse them? No, not really, but it has to be taken into consideration.

The other problem that becomes obvious very early on in the film is that there are no sympathetic or even likeable characters (with the exception of Lance, but I expect that’s just my opinion). If you’re not rooting for the characters, particularly the hero (who by the end I really did want the building he blows up to just fall on him), you’re going to lose any interest you have in the entire story.

In conclusion, while I can pretty much guarantee you will not watch this film more than once unless forced to do so, it’s most certainly worth doing that one time, preferably while inebriated with friends.

[rating:1.5]