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Review: THE DARK RED (2018)

With an evil cult, mental illness, stolen babies, and psychic powers, The Dark Red has it all. The fourth teaming of director Dan Bush and co-writer Conal Byrne is a melting pot of genres and ideas. And they bring them together quite seamlessly. What could have been an absolute mess of half-baked clichés turned out to be a very entertaining film.

As a child, Sybil (April Billingsley, +1) was found hiding in a toy chest by Kathrine Warren (Jill Jane Clements) a social worker doing a welfare check. Her mother lay dead of an overdose a few feet away. Adopted and raised by Kathrine she grows into a troubled young woman.

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Now Sybil is in a mental institution, under the care of Dr. Deluce (Kelsey Scott, Fear The Walking Dead). She claims that after an affair with David (Conal Byrne) she became pregnant only to be kidnapped and have the baby taken by cesarean in an underground delivery room. It seems she, and her child, have a rare blood type that an evil cult needs to maintain its powers.

The backstory of The Dark Red is told mostly in flashbacks during Sybil’s sessions with Dr. Deluce. It’s a tribute to both the script and Billingsley’s performance that we believe her version of the events as she presents them. It would be a lot easier the believe depression over a miscarriage combined with her schizophrenia has taken its toll.

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Scott makes a nice foil as the sympathetic but skeptical doctor. Her questions and attempts to force Sybil to deal with reality make a solid frame for the flashbacks and reinforce just how unreliable a narrator she is. At the same time, it offers us hints that Sybil really does have psychic powers. Transference should have used this approach with its approach to Emma’s similar powers.

All of this leaves us well-prepped for the last act when The Dark Red lets all hell break loose. Sybil cons her way to freedom and immediately sets out to retrieve her son. The result is a cross between Scanners and Death Wish as she storms the house where the baby is being held. The final showdown between Sybil and Rose (Rhoda Griffis) has a distinctly creepy edge to it.

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While nothing groundbreaking, The Dark Red does get some good mileage out of the cult and conspiracy genres. It’s certainly better than the likes of Hallowed Ground or Satanic Panic.

The Dark Red is available to stream from Dark Sky Films. The DVD is scheduled for April 28th. You can check their Facebook page for more details.

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