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Review: THE DARK WITHIN (2019)

Director David Ryan Keith is best known for The Redwood Massacre. However, his other two films Attack Of The Herbals and Ghosts of Darkness are both very good films. Now he’s back with The Dark Within, a tale of artificially induced psychic powers. And the demons that come with those powers.

A prologue set in 1991 details a military experiment in remote viewing going horribly wrong. As the scientist in charge watches a young boy sits drawing pictures.

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Cut to the present day, and that boy Marcus Blaine (Paul Flannery, who co-wrote the script with Kieth) is all grown up. He’s meeting with his psychiatrist, Dr. Norton (Stephanie Lynn Styles). He doesn’t want to be there, but it’s a condition of his probation. She questions him about his parents, who vanished in 1991. He asks about his ex Sarah (Kendra Carelli, Bloody Ballet) who’s also one of her patients.

Saying she thinks it will help him, Dr. Norton arranges for him to go to his parent’s old cabin. She feels this might help him remember some of his repressed memories. In short order, he finds an old voice recorder with his father’s notes on it. And a vial of what looks like the serum used in the experiments. He, of course, drinks it, and from there on neither he nor the viewers, are sure what is real and what is a hallucination.

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Sadly, The Dark Within isn’t up to the director’s other films. The constantly sliding notion of reality just gets repetitive and annoying. The half-seen figures and events and timelines contradicting themselves are more confusing than unnerving. I quickly stopped caring if he was tripping or had enhanced his psychic abilities. And by the time he discovers his parent’s secret underground research facility, it was all seeming a bit far-fetched. Even more so than the presence of demons.

Granted, it’s hard to pull this kind of film off. The last film to do it well was probably Dry Blood. And that was due to an absolutely brutal last act. The Dark Within doesn’t have that. It does have a fairly good death, but almost immediately ruins it with a pair of weak attempts at shock endings. Let’s hope the upcoming sequel Redwood Massacre – Annihilation is a return to form.

Uncork’d Entertainment will release The Dark Within on DVD and VOD July 9th

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