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Tuesday, April 3, 2018


It's interesting to see two different takes on the same horror-movie premise within a short time of each other.  6:66 PM, which we reviewed last month, took on the subject of a fake reality-TV "ghost hunters" show gone horribly wrong when the haunted house they explore turns out to be the real thing. 

But that movie was an all-out farce, while WITHIN THE DARKNESS (Indican Pictures, 2016) treats the premise much more seriously. It's still tongue-in-cheek at times, and the first half is buoyed by a rather lighthearted air, but it's also a spooky treat for those looking for more blood-chilling fare.

As in the other film, an ambitious small-time TV producer is shooting a TV pilot about ghost hunters inside a house rigged with prank scares.  Austin (Dave Coyne) is aided by his faithful co-producer and camerawoman Jesse (Tonya Kay), his skeptical cousin Bruce (John C. Bailey), also behind the camera, and his sexy wife Lucy (Erin Cline), who will pose as a sexy occult expert on the show.

The personality quirks and relationships between the characters are played for laughs and popcorn drama at first (Austin's a selfish jerk, Jesse hates Lucy and wants Austin for herself, Lucy is carrying insufferable Austin's child). 

They prove somewhat inept at even pretending to evoke the spirits of a very troubled family who, according to legend, died mysteriously and horribly in a secluded house in the woods. (The stunning location used is a real dream house.)

But things get real when an actual psychic medium named Megan (Shanna Forrestall), a regal Goth goddess whom Bruce found on Craigslist, shows up and proclaims the house genuinely occupied by very hostile entities. 

While Austin deems her just the thing to spice up the show, Lucy is the only one to heed Megan's dire warning that they take this attempt to rouse the angry spirits within that dark, spooky house very seriously.

It's no EXORCIST, or anywhere near it, and the success ratio of its jump-scares is about 50-50, but WITHIN THE DARNESS is such an atmospheric little chiller that I found myself caught up in it.
At times betraying its low budget, it's slickly done nonetheless, with a sharply-written script, a steadily-mounting pace, and a talented cast to pull off the nicely-staged setpieces.

These include some moments of genuine, unnerving shock that had me jumping out of my seat a few times as the lightheartedness of the earlier scenes is tempered with a growing dread.

Director and co-writer (with Cheryl Compton) Jonathan Zuck gets that feeling of creeping through a dark, scary house at night just right, especially when twisted, gargoyle-like faces suddenly appear in the most unexpected places.

WITHIN THE DARKNESS probably isn't the scariest movie you'll watch this year, and maybe not even this month.  But if you're like me, it'll be one of the most deliciously fun haunted house thrillers you've seen in quite a while. 

Tech Specs
Runtime: 90 minutes
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby Sr.
Country: USA
Language, Captions: English
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror Thriller

Watch the Trailer


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