As Dante’s Shadow of Sin opens a man is burying a severed head. Shortly after, a voiceover informs us “I am Dante and I am a man who lives to serve no one but myself” Dante (Dakota Ray) unsurprisingly is staring at his reflection as he tells us this.
Dante hears from an old friend Mahoganny (Fred Epstein, The Acid Sorcerer, Sebastian’s Unholy Flesh). They haven’t seen each other in a couple of years, not since a disagreement over a murder. But he’s just inherited his father’s estate and wants to put the past behind them. But as Dante’s voice informs us “This would be our last reunion because something fucking catastrophic was about to transpire. And only one of us would make it out alive.”
Dante’s Shadow of Sin is the eighth film from filmmaker Dakota Ray, and he’s certainly come a long way stylistically since the first film of his I saw, The Rise and Fall of an American Scumbag, a grim and grittily realistic tale of petty criminals double-crossing and fucking each other over. This time out he’s chronicling a duel of serial killers versed in esoteric and Satanic knowledge.
Like most of his recent films, Dante’s Shadow of Sin has an artsy, almost surreal look to it. Everything is heavily tinted to a dark shade of blue, intentionally I should add, not like in House of Blood. The camera as often focuses on disfigured dolls, broken toys and all manner of insects as it does on the human characters. There are also plenty of hallucinations, or maybe they are genuine occult happenings. In a film where absinthe is the weakest of the substances, two occult obsessed characters indulge in, and they do a lot of indulging, either explanation is possible.
There is a plot although it’s fairly ephemeral serves mostly as an excuse for Dante and Mahoganny to face off against each other. Apart from two very minor characters, Mahoganny’s mute grandmother (Maddison M.) and his slave (Sholeh Behesht) they are the only two people in the film. This is fitting as they both think they’re the only person in the world who matters.
Dante’s Shadow of Sin is, obviously, not a film for everyone. Those who don’t like its more experimental style will be put off from the start. And seventy-five minutes of two evil and nihilistic guys watching snuff films, taking drugs and talking directly to the viewer via voiceover will get on plenty of other people’s nerves. By the time matters came to a head I was certainly ready for one of them to die. Which is the point of the film. These are repellent people doing repellent things and you’re supposed to hate them.
In the end, Dante’s Shadow of Sin interested me more as an exercise in filmmaking than as a horror film. It’s never actually scary and you’re probably not going to give a damn about either of the characters. But it is a good example of using images and sounds to provoke a sense of discomfort and unease.
Of course, there are people out there whose view of the world aligns with those of Dante or Mahoganny. Be they those looking to be the next Aleister Crowley, whose house gets a reference in the film, or just of a nihilistic nature, they’ll get much more enjoyment out of Dante’s Shadow of Sin than I did, and they should because they’re its natural audience.
Dakota Ray has made Dante’s Shadow of Sin available as a free watch on YouTube. If you want a hard copy you can buy them here. You can find out more about the film on his website or the film’s Facebook page.