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DVD Review: Dark Country

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From Tab Murphy, the writer of My Best Friend Is A Vampire and several forgettable animated Disney flicks, comes Dark Country, a very low-budget thriller with a flair for the unexplainable. Former Punisher Thomas Jane stars and makes his directorial debut with this one — a tale set in the mystical and mysterious desert of Southern Nevada. A pair of spur-of-the-moment Vegas newlyweds (Jane and costar Lauren German) are en route to Sedona (their first mistake) through the desert (their second) in the middle of the night (the third).

After a bit of bickering over whether or not they’re lost and some good ol’ ice cube foreplay (in the car — their fourth of many more gaffes), the pair come across an accident victim. With no sign of help in sight, they load the lad into the car and continue to drive, hoping to find a hospital, gas station, or even a phone. Unfortunately, this just isn’t their night — and the supernatural forces are hard at work to ensure that neither newlywed will escape the bizarre fates they have been chosen for.

That’s about all I can really say without giving too much of the story away. Granted, there isn’t much to Tab’s story. It certainly isn’t the worst to ever be filmed, but it does come off as what might happen were you to take a few of the really classic B-grade film noirs, puree them with a handful of episodes from The Twilight Zone, and then smear the end result all over David Lynch’s Lost Highway. The old fashioned noir-ism will seem like a nice touch to some, but the low-budget special effects and blatantly obvious usages of green screen may ruin any aesthetically pleasing attributes the movie has for others. Ron Perlman fans will be the most disappointed of all: the big guy only shows up for the last 20 minutes of the film.

Dark Country hits DVD via Stage 6 Films and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The B-grade special effects are probably even more noticeable than they would have been in the theater (it went straight to DVD), and stand out considerably. The movie is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen ratio. Most of the film takes place during the night, so there isn’t much of a color scheme to critique. The black levels, however, come through rather fine. A 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack comes through fairly nicely, perking up when it needs to. English and French subtitles are provided.

Although you really wouldn’t expect to find any special features here, the disc’s producers felt they should give Tom a chance to explain why the movie is a bit of a bomb. He’s joined by writer Murphy and producer Patrick Aiello. A featurette, “Journey To Dark Country” is also included on this disc, as are several previews and promos for other Sony and Stage 6 titles.

Dark Country has the look and feel of a film that should have had more to it. And indeed, Thomas Jane’s intended vision for the film was supposed to be different. For starters, it was to be shown in 3D, which would actually make sense seeing as how many of the movie’s moments seem to look directly into the camera’s eye. Additionally, the backers reedited the film to suit their own ends, leaving Jane’s cut buried somewhere in the Nevada desert. Poor Tom. Let’s hope he has more control over his next endeavor (if they give him one).

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    That is sad to see Jane didn’t have as much control as he should have on this movie. I enjoyed The Punisher.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    I tried to enjoy “The Punisher,” but Travolta was absolutely terrible. I think Tom should have broken out some of his “Punisher” skills while he was working on this one.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    Yeah, I tried to look beyond that. ;-) Yes, you are probably right.

  • jay

    I’ll think you’ll find that Jane had his fingers in the pie until the very end – with the exception of a US theatrical 3D release. A 3D version definitely exists of this cut

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    “A 3D version definitely exists of this cut”

    Now that I’d like to see.