Reign in Darkness (2001)

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Released 14-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-2:06
Featurette-Making of Vignette
Audio Commentary-writers/directors/producers/stars
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 90:19
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kel Dolen
David Allen
Studio
Distributor
RapidFire
Madman Entertainment
Starring Kel Dolen
Chris Kerrison
David No
David Allen
John Barresi
Case Click
RPI $24.95 Music John Clifford White


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, occasionally obvious
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Reign in Darkness is an Australian film, although there are moments you might doubt that. It was made by RapidFire Productions, which is basically Kel Dolen and David Allen. Their names appear a few times in the credits, due to the fact that they produced, directed, wrote, and starred in this film.

    I'd really like to tell you that this is a good movie, because I'm a strong believer in encouraging local films (and by local films I do not mean hiring out Australia as a cheap location for an American film studio). Unfortunately, I can't tell you that this is a good movie. The script is not good, some of the acting is pretty bad, and I really hate the bad American accents (in the commentary they explain about the accents...). But the sound is really something special.

    If you have a 6.1 sound system, I suggest you consider getting this disc — it is a serious demo for Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (which yields 6.1). The opening logo (Rapidfire) will definitely get your attention — it is a marvellous demonstration of directional sound. The back cover has a warning: "This DVD contains excessive low level bass frequencies" — this is one disc that will give your sub a real workout.

    The opening credits sequence is quite recognisable to Melbourne residents — a helicopter shot coming over the Westgate and into the city. It looks quite interesting. And then the voice-over starts... Look, I can understand their claims that they need to make the film understandable to American audiences to be able to make big sales, but the hideous parodies of American accents sound awful — I wish they had chosen to make a version with natural Australian voices for this market. The fact that everyone seems to carry a gun is taking things a bit far, though. They've used US money, too.

    It's rather fun if you're from Melbourne to play "spot the location" for a number of the outside scenes, especially for the government research facility — it's a rather familiar building to some locals.

    The vampires in this story don't follow the same rules as those we're familiar with — they go out in sunlight, and have reflections, for a start. And the usual methods for killing them don't work.

    They have the classic paragraph in the credits about any resemblance to persons living or dead blah, blah, and yet their central character is called Michael Dorn. Michael Dorn, as we all know, is the actor who plays Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'd call that a bit of a slip...

    There are some gaps in the storyline, perhaps places where large chunks have been edited out (they had to cut over half an hour from the first edit). Or perhaps these are flaws in the original script. It's hard to tell. This script feels quite derivative, corny, and it's not all that well-acted. And there's some serious flaws in their research — they seem to think Kevlar is fibreglass, for example. Their idea of "an arsenal" (read, two pistols) is pathetic. Their bullets don't pass through a body. There are big chunks of exposition thrown at the audience (always a sign of sloppy scripting). All-in-all, the script reminds me of a line from Ghost World, about something that's so bad that it has gone past the "so bad it's good" stage, and back to bad again.

    If I could offer one piece of advice to RapidFire Productions it would be to hire an experienced scriptwriter for their next film. I think it would make a world of difference.

    I disliked the ending — (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) it was far too much of a set-up for a sequel or TV series.

    This disc is definitely recommended as demo material for your 6.1 surround sound system, but I can't recommend it for anything else.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the intended aspect ratio. The movie was shot using digital video cameras, but it has been run through a filter to look like film. It certainly doesn't look exactly like video.

    The image is a little soft, but clear enough. Shadow detail is fairly limited. Film grain is not an issue (although the filter has introduced a level of pseudo-grain). There are moments that show definite low-level noise, such as 6:04–6:06.

    Colour has been made an integral part of the creative process for this film. Much of the movie has had a significant amount of the colour stripped from it, and it looks quite effective (and quite intentional). There is no sign of over-saturation or colour bleed.

    There are no film artefacts, which isn't surprising given that it was shot on digital video. There are no tape artefacts, either.

    There is more than a little aliasing and moiré — perhaps the worst example is on the ventilation grille at 60:31. There are no MPEG artefacts, but more than a little shimmer.

    There's a scene at 58:31 where the wire used for the stunt is clearly visible.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered, so there is no layer change.

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

Audio

    There are three soundtracks, all English. There's a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, not surround-encoded. Then there's the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack, which is the soundtrack I listened to. And there's a Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary. Strangely, all three soundtracks are 448kbps (which is very unusual for the 2.0 tracks).

    The dialogue is clear enough for the most part, although the fake American accents don't help. There are quite a few lip-sync errors, especially on Chris Kerrison (see 21:01, for example) — apparently every line of dialogue was ADRed, and they replaced Chris Kerrison's voice altogether (I think they said the voice they used was Steve Hall).

    The score, from composer John Clifford White (better known for his work on Romper Stomper), is part of the marvellous sound. It's really very good.

    The surrounds are used extensively and effectively, and that includes the rear centre if you have one (or two) — demo quality surround. The subwoofer gets a real workout, too — excellent stuff. You may upset the neighbours with this one, but that can be fun sometimes.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu is animated with sound — a nice piece of design.

Trailer (2:06)

    This is a standard trailer — it almost makes the film look worthwhile.

Featurette — Making Of Vignette (4:49)

    Almost a long montage of behind the scenes footage.

Commentary — directors Kel Dolan and David Allen

    Quite a good commentary — they talk almost continuously, and don't repeat themselves. They make lots of scene-specific comments, but go into detail about various behind-the-scenes elements, too. They are keen to impart lessons they've learned to anyone else considering making a film under similar conditions (which they describe as "guerrilla film-making"). They are quite honest about how lucky they were in how some parts turned out.

    My opinion of some aspects of this film improved after listening to the commentary.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film has been released on DVD in Region 1 by that well-known company Spartan. Information about the R1 disc is contradictory, with one source saying it's 1.33:1, another 1.85:1, and a few reporting it as 2.35:1 (I think the last is accurate). The lists of extras are a bit less variable, and they seem to agree that it has pretty much the same extras as the R4, with possibly an extra trailer. Most of the reports are fairly vague about the sound.

    Given that it's an Australian film, and you are buying it as an audio demo, I'd recommend getting the Region 4 disc, which I can assure you has the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX that you want.

Summary

    Reign Of Darkness is an attempt to cross Blade with The Crow (with dashes of Blade Runner) that really doesn't work. It is nicely presented on DVD, though.

    The video quality is fairly good.

    The audio quality is outstanding, except for the dialogue, which suffers from hideous accents and some bad lip-sync.

    The extras are quite decent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, May 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
Also available in R1 - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)
Apparently it got a theatrical run - h'biki
The worst vampire movie ever? - Anony-Mouse REPLY POSTED