A Review by Robert Long II
Tagline: They thought they were alone…they thought it was a game…this weekend they’ll learn you can’t play games with death!
Director: Dan Zachary Producer: John Knox
Writers: John Knox (writer) Dan Zachary (co-writer)
Completion: 31 October 2005 (USA) Release Date: May 21, 2008
Runtime: USA :96 min Company: Moviehouse Pictures
Cast Todd Hann, Benjamin Gutknecht, Johnnie Monster, Tamara Pender, Lee Tomaschefski, Angie Zachary, Patricia Nudd, Tristan Risk, Dave Cote, Steve McGowan, Mike Coleman
Story: The peaceful town of North Bend, Washington is terrorized by a serial killer only known as “The North Bend Reaper.” He was a hulking figure in a skull mask that adorned himself in a cloak made from swatches of material taken from his victim’s attire. In 1988 he killed multiple citizens in the area, before disappearing, apparently killed by three hunters out for revenge.
In present day, a troupe of actors, led by Ben Traimer (Todd Hann), is starting a murder mystery party company very near where the original tragedies of 1988 took place. The town is in an uproar because the murder mystery is going to be based on the local legend – the North Bend Reaper. Because of this, the location of the party is being kept top secret – a summer camp closed for the Fall.
Besides those involved in the company, the guests for the weekend include Therese and Tibor (Tristan Risk and Dave Cote), Joseph (Mike Coleman) an investigative reporter, Andrew (Steve McGowan) who thinks with his little head, and Rosemary (Patricia Nudd) and Lisa (Angie Zachary). Actor Drieghton (Benjamin Gutknecht), who wears Alice Cooper Makeup and dresses as a mod pallbearer, runs the weekend’s events. The guest that solves the “Slasher-Flick” murder mystery by the end of the weekend wins a cash prize of $500.
The only problem is that this has all caught the attention of the original North Bend Reaper, and there are going to be some real murders at the Murder Mystery gathering…
Comments: This is a Canadian film, but takes place in the state of Washington. From some notes I have read, I believe this may have started concept as early as 2002. It was shown around Halloween of 2005, and the release to DVD was in the Spring of 2008.
I have watched this movie a few times, and it is actually a pretty well put together slasher – certainly more intelligent than most that I have seen. The story is very sound, and the actors do not embarrass themselves. If anything they look like they are having a tremendously good time. The character of Dreighton is a true stand out. The design on the North Bend Reaper costume is excellent. And, Lee Tomaschefski is drop dead gorgeous. I wish she had had a nude scene.
Are the murders themselves graphic? No, but they ARE brutal. This little indie film has a true professional sheen to it. The production values are tremendous for what must have been a very low budget (examples include the Reaper’s lair, as well as the general decoration of the camp itself). The writing suffers at times, there are a few logistical problems, but overall you can tell that those in charge cared and did their damnedest to deliver entertainment – and they do.
Some of the hurdles in this movie deal with a few logistics. The tickets to the event are $99.99. Aside from the actors, there are maybe five to six guests. The cash prize is $500. Factoring in the rental of the camp, food, supplies, and paying the employees, they are losing money. The other hurdle I found was after the “breakfast beer” scene, where stories of the North Bend Reaper are being told (good scene BTW) we cut to a kitchen scene with Ben and Dreighton (in his full costume). The next time we see Dreighton he is in a cabin with James (Johnnie Monster) and is in a parka, touching up his makeup. After that it is back to Ben and Dreighton in the kitchen again where we last saw them. It appears to this viewer that a couple scenes got flip-flopped in the editing.
Unfortunately, some of the protagonists doom themselves from the start. Ben, James, and Dreighton interrupt a televised candle light vigil for the victims of the reaper to advertise their party. This early appearance of their smugness and crassness makes it hard to feel sorry for them once the shit hits the fan. Some of the characters are a little cliched, but most are fleshed out a little more than is normal for this sort of fare. The murder “game” itself looks like a lot of fun, and I wish we had a little more of that on the screen; maybe an extra could have been the actual game. There is some nudity but more would have been appreciated (this is a slasher after all). The musical score isn’t bad; it’s just not memorable. The ending – which I feel is an open ending – is well done. Not everything is wrapped into a neat package, but at the same time it MAKES SENSE. How many slashers can boast that?
This film has gotten some good reviews. I think that if you give DARKEST HOUR a chance, you will enjoy it. I am happy that I own it, and it definitely is worth a rental. Extras on the disc include outtakes and deleted scenes, as well as trailers. There was a commentary track and a “making of” featurette, but they were unfortunately left off the DVD. Perhaps the filmmakers will make it available on their website.
Moviehouse Pictures has a few other motion pictures they are working on. In time I see them getting better with their craft and being a force to be reckoned with. They have a great website with lots on information on their movies. It can be found here.
I give DARKEST HOUR a 7.5 out of 10.
You can buy DARKEST HOUR here.