DIR: Darren Flaxstone
Starring: Bernie Hodges, Suzie Latham, Judith Haley, Oliver Park, Alicia Ancel, Simon Pearce.
Writers: Darren Flaxstone & Bernie Hodges
Preliminary release date – October 2014
Reviewing films like Dark Vision can sometimes be difficult. They come packaged with so much hope and endeavour that you really want to like them, but despite a lot of charm they often come up short in vital areas leaving you disappointed. Coming hot off the heels of brilliant The Borderlands (2014) this is another British faux documentary that mixes TV ghost hunting with occult overtones. Taking its cue from shows like Most Haunted and America’s superior Ghost Adventures it attempts to both satirise and celebrate its influences but ends up a bit muddled, and wastes a fantastic chance to bring a brilliant, scarcely used villain to the screen.
Taking its name from its fictional internet cast ‘Dark Vision’ follows a group of paranormal investigators as they compete to get the most ‘hits’ and win their own TV show. Going deep into the bowels of ‘Baylock’s Folly’, a mansion house built on top of an old plague hospital, they go in search of the spirit of the murderous Plague Doctor William Baylock. Leader Knight is a hypnotist who has a certain control over his crew and is incredibly ambitious and egotistical.
He will go to any lengths to win the contest including faking ghosts, twisting history, hypnotising his crew and putting them in unnecessary danger. Strange things begin to happen and the ghost of the evil, murderous plague doctor is soon on the loose. As tensions rise and fear mounts the mysterious Dark Vision Hub keeps offering messages suggesting that all is not as it first seemed, leading to a chaotic finale involving Satanism, witchcraft, murder and the vengeful ghost of the Plague Doctor.
Despite setting itself up as a fake internet cast, the film settles into a more traditional groove than one might expect. The gothic melodramatics and light titillation suggest that the influences here are more Hammer Horror than The Blair Witch project and this is one of the films main plus points. Lending it a very British flavour it helps it to transcend the usual clichés that often hinder found footage like films. It has a surprisingly playful tone too, never taking itself too seriously but never descending into comedy, intentional or otherwise. There is also the use of the medieval plague doctor as a villain. I have never understood why these characters haven’t made it into more horror movies as they are truly arresting, and frankly terrifying in appearance!
Sadly the film falls down in parts and it doesn’t quite have the grandeur to fully embrace the gothic potential that the set up and location are crying out for. Because of this the film sometimes looks visually cheap; as though it was made as a promo tool for something like The York Dungeon. It’s a shame as Director Darren Flaxstone should be commended for stepping away from the obvious and trying to make a ‘real’ film rather than just 86 minutes of shakey, head-ache inducing mania. It also has a lightness of touch that, whilst endearing, proves somewhat crippling as the film makers try to amp up the scares. It is a rather easy going film at times and, despite its best intentions, is never really scary. Even The Plague Doctor lacks the presence or dramatic punch to ever truly frighten or make an impact.
But despite its failings Dark Vision still emerges victorious on some counts. These films often stand or fall on the conviction of the performers and whilst no one here is likely to win any awards, they do for the most part hold their own. There are a couple of dodgy supporting turns, but Bernie Hodges and Suzie Latham give the film a solid foundation and are both thoroughly natural and believable. Even the lesser performers don’t grate the way they should, coming off as forgivably naïve rather than inept. I can imagine it playing well at festivals where people are in the mood to be wooed by its many charms and people are sometimes more forgiving of a films flaws. It is a very endearing film that in its own small way, and on its own terms is something of a success. However, as a horror film it unfortunately fails to create even the slightest of shivers.
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