In 2014, at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival, I had rather exciting things to say about director Audrey Cummings. The film she screened was her feature film debut, Berkshire County, and while it treaded common ground, she at least showed enough awareness to spin clichés into something new.
She utilizes that same skill to the visual-heavy Darken. Her sophomore stab takes place in an alternate reality akin to a steampunk nightmare, full of warriors and gnarly barbarians following the order of the all-powerful Mother Darken. Instead of copying traditional sci-fi nuances and designs, Cummings creates a convincing world with unique visual techniques. She’s constantly spinning a web of tension for characters as they try navigating (and escaping) the shadowy, industrial catacombs. The costumes also show marvellous effort from Marissa Schwartz (The Space Between, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town).
Screenwriter RJ Lackie must’ve missed the tutorial on how to elaborate on ordinary details in special ways. His derivative script hardly provides any decent characterization – making the film’s exposition hard for viewers to comprehend or care for – and he’s also written roles to match basic cutouts found in generic action thrillers. The writing is unsatisfying for the audience and unchallenging for RJ Lackie, but it’s even more disappointing for the talented cast in a production that’s been pitched as a thriller empowered by strong women.
Still, the film resists being a statistic by going above and beyond in other areas. I just hope Audrey Cummings either reunites with her Berkshire County screenwriter Chris Gamble, or networks with a new screenwriter who is interested in puling their own weight.
Darken screens at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival on Sunday, November 26 at 7:00 p.m. at Toronto’s The Royal Cinema.
For more information on the festival, visit the official BITS webpage here.
Buy tickets here.
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple: