Dark Chronicles

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Dark Chronicles (2019, dir: Christopher M. Carter, Jessica Morgan, Dustin Rieffer; script: Christopher M. Carter, Jessica Morgan, Dustin Rieffer; cast: Jessica Morgan, Katy Mahard, Daniela Santi, Jim Cirner, Joe Heck, Aeric Azana, Brittny Isabell, Avalon Kerr, Adam Mendez, Jr.)





The IMDB says that Dark Chronicles (2019) was originally a "TV Mini-Series" comprising four episodes. Those episodes have been combined into a horror anthology film, with the addition of a horror host for a wraparound plus inserts between each tale.

Dark Chronicles runs a bit over 84 minutes, including the wraparound, so the episodes aren't very long. And judging by its low-budget production values, this looks like a web series rather than anything made for TV.

"Possession" (12 minutes) is a standard demonic possession story. It only has a cast of two. A man tries to exorcise a woman. Nothing new here, apart from a "surprise twist" ending that didn't surprise me, and wasn't very interesting.

"Relic" (20 minutes) was the only tale I kinda liked. Three young people visit an antique store reputed to sell weird items.

The store looks like every antique store, curio shop, occult bookstore, and fortune teller's den in every horror film ever made. It's located in a seedy part of town. Shabby on the outside. Quiet, dimly lit, and cluttered with oddities on the inside. Pagan masks, burning candles, a devil's mirror, skeleton figurines, and an ancient, handwritten occult book are among the store's inventory.

The store owner is a pretty young woman who tries to look creepy by wearing a veil. She also talks in the stiff, formal fashion of people knowledgeable about the occult. She tricks the young visitors into summoning a dead spirit, who follows them home and butchers them in the style of Michael Myers. Hey, he might be a spirit, but he still enjoys his splatter and gore.

Nothing terribly original about "Relic," but I liked the store's spooky atmosphere, and the film was well paced.

"What Hides Within" (13 minutes) is the usual zombie apocalypse. Four people barricaded in a house. Inside, the walls are covered with plastic sheets. (Why? Because it looks cool?) One man becomes a zombie and kills two others, eating their flesh. The final survivor escapes, but meets an unexpected fate in a surprise twist ending. This time, I was surprised. But the ending was nihilistic and unpleasant.

Actually, I'm not sure if the flesh eaters are zombies. Zombies are dead, but these flesh eaters might be alive yet driven insane by a virus. They run rather than shamble, they're feral, they eat flesh, and they can be killed. Zombies? Whatever. They are what they are.



"The Conductor" (29 minutes) is the longest and dullest tale. Christopher M. Carter's script is heavily padded. His characters keep repeating their points. The dialog could have been cut in half without losing anything. Carter's direction is also poor. His actors speak too slowly, savoring their (repetitive) evil lines. Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch also linger on moments, but Carter lingers on nothing very interesting.

Carter's story has many twists, but no original elements. Three people in a bar on a rainy night. They have secrets. Past crimes. There's sadistic violence and the supernatural.

Jessica Morgan has a thing for broken bones sticking out of arms. She did the make-up effects for "The Conductor" and "Possession," and both films have people who break their arms so the bone sticks out. (Dustin Rieffer wrote and directed "Possession," so Morgan is the common element on both films.) She also directed and co-wrote "What Hides Within," in which a woman's arm is sawed off. A Jill of all trades, Morgan also stars in "The Conductor," but she's better at breaking and sawing off arms than at acting.

Dark Chronicles's technical aspects are decent enough. The acting and writing ranges from acceptable to bad. "Relic" (also written and directed by Carter) is its only entertaining tale. The wraparound (a simple host who introduce the stories) is also well done.

Even hardcore horror fans might want to ignore Dark Chronicles. For horror anthology completists only.



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