Movies about horrible occurrences on the sets of movies are a genre staple. From THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES and EFFECTS to PIECES OF TALENT and DIRECTOR’S CUT it’s a well-populated sub-genre. The latest addition is DARKNESS REIGNS from Andrew P. Jones whose previous film HAUNTING OF CELL BLOCK 11 dealt with a ghost hunting TV show getting more than it bargained for.
Presented as footage shot on the set of a film called Defanatus Soul (the actual film’s shooting title) that is thrown into chaos when the allegedly haunted location turns out to be the home of a demon. When the demon strikes, all but a handful of the cast and crew are killed. The survivors try to find their way to freedom, but more than one of them have secrets that could prove deadly.
DARKNESS REIGNS is very much a meta-movie. Both it and the film with the film shared the same shooting and release titles. Best of all, the film’s “name on the box actor” is Casper Van Dien (STARSHIP TROOPERS) who plays the fictional film’s “name on the box actor”, Casper Van Dien (STARSHIP TROOPERS). This plays well with the film’s semi-found footage format and helps create a sense of reality.
Gimmicks alone don’t make a good film, however, and thankfully DARKNESS REIGNS didn’t rely on just on them. While it takes a bit to really get going, the script is solid and never drags. It’s not overly complicated either. There’s a couple of twists but for the most part, this is one you can sit back and enjoy. You can also enjoy spotting film references, [REC], THE SHINING and IT FOLLOWS are among those to get a nod.
While there’s not a lot of effects, what there is work, for the most part, give or take some CGI bug swarms. The scene involving trying to get someone’s innards back into their body is particularly effective.
The roles here don’t call for great acting but the cast rises to the occasion. Van Dien has fun with his small part. Peter Mayer shines as a paranormal expert, James Packard is appropriately sleazy as the film’s director and Zachary Mooren does well as Daniel, the documentary filmmaker getting the story of a lifetime.
DARKNESS REIGNS is as good a way to kill some time as any. Its premiering from Wild Eye Releasing on VOD 7/10/18.