Darkness Descends (2014)

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Released 9-Jul-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 91:59 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Marc Clebanoff
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Danny Trejo
Frank Krueger
Kinga Philipps
Kristoff St. John
Wylie Small
Michael Rene Walton
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Ben Zarai


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Beneath the subways of New York is another world, a world of people society has forgotten; the homeless, the runaways, the misfits who live in the abandoned, dark tunnels. Also living in the tunnels is Jake (Frank Krueger), an ex-cop who went to pieces after his wife was murdered, and a vicious gang led by Angel (Danny Trejo), committed to violent revolution to destroy the society above and quite willing to abduct and murder prominent citizens. Into the tunnels comes Chelsea (Kinga Philipps), a woman making a film about the homeless people there. While the NY police, including Jake’s friend Smitty (Kristoff St. John), make periodic sweeps of the tunnels searching for Angel, the lives of Chelsea, Jake and Angel intersect and Chelsea gets far more of a story than she expected.

     Darkness Descends is also known as 20 Ft. Below: The Darkness Descending or Redemption: The Darkness Descending. The prime mover for the film is TV actor Frank Krueger, who is writer / producer / hero of Darkness Descends. Indeed, the film is based upon a 5 episode 2009 TV series The Darkness Descending, which Krueger also wrote and starred in playing the same character. The director of both the film and TV series was Marc Clebanoff and the film and TV series share other characters such as the older woman artist Harmony (Wylie Small) and Skeeter (Michael Rene Walton, who seems to be referencing the character played by Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now) although Chelsea and Angel do not appear in the TV series.

     The DVD cover of Darkness Descends states the film was “inspired by true events” whatever that means, although the film itself makes no such claim. It is however shot in such a way as to imply documentary filmmaking, with actors speaking directly to the camera as if interviewed and a jerky hand held camera with obvious jump cuts, focus changes and characters partly out of the frame. Actors are also deliberately shot partly obscured by shadow and darkness. However, in this case the technique works reasonably well, adding a tension to the film that is accentuated by the fact that most of the scenes occur in closed in spaces with copious areas of blackness in the frame.

     However, Darkness Descends does suffer from some woeful dialogue and some very wooden acting. Neither Frank Krueger or Kinga Philipps display much screen charisma and Danny Trejo does little except snarl, although it must be said that some of his pretentious dialogue does him no favours. As well Darkness Descends veers widely between social commentary, lauding the community of homeless people in the tunnels who are sharing and living in harmony (they look quite clean and good looking too), a romance and an action film, not quite settling on what it wants to be. There is also a message that violence cannot end violence, which almost gets lost in the mayhem.

     Darkness Descends is a low budget film which does builds good tension with its dark sets, it is shot inventively and does have something valid to say about the nature of our consumer society, the haves and the have nots. The acting and dialogue leave something to be desired and the scripting is uneven, but there are far worse films out there to spend 90 minutes with.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Darkness Descends is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, close to the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a good print. As noted in the review Darkness Descends features a jerky hand held camera with obvious jump cuts, focus changes and characters partly out of the frame. When not being deliberately softer, the print is very sharp and detailed, with the craggy face of Danny Trejo finely lined. Colours are good, brightness and contrast consistent. There is a lot of black in many frames, and they are absolutely rock solid. Shadow detail is deliberately obscured in a number of scenes, but we see what the filmmaker intends us to see.

     There was occasional motion blur with movement and some minor aliasing but no marks.

     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps.

     This is a loud and enveloping audio track. Dialogue was mostly clear, although some characters such as Skeeter deliberately mumbled. The surrounds and rears were constantly in use suggesting life in the tunnels and in the dark, with voices, ambient sound such as the rumble of subway trains and music. The sub-woofer added bass to the punches, the music and the rumble of trains.

     The original music by Ben Zarai was not overused and was effective.

     I did not notice any lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     No extras, not even a trailer. The menu offered only play feature and scene selection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Our version of Darkness Descends is a Region 2 / 4 release, identical to the UK release. The Region 1 US release also looks to be similar, and is without extras.

Summary

     Darkness Descends has an average rating of 2.8 out of 10 by IMDb users, but in truth it is not as bad as this suggests. Darkness Descends is shot inventively and has something valid to say about the nature of our consumer society, and although the scripting, acting and dialogue leave a lot to be desired but I did have some fun and the film does not outstay its welcome.

     The video and audio are fine; there are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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