Ginger Nuts of Horror
"Dark Signal's" serial killer ends up coming across as being more like Norris Cole from Coronation Street.
Spirits, serial killers and secrets should, in theory, make for an entertaining film. Throw in a feisty disgruntled radio DJ and a mysterious psychic and you really should be onto a winner.
Opening with a masked killer killing a young woman, the film then cuts to the heroine of the film, the strapped for cash Kate (Joanna Ignaczewska), who must be the victim of the world's worst debt collectors. Why they decide to take a small cheap television, instead of taking her flashy laptop, is one of the first signs that this film may well be in trouble. Of course, we need the laptop as it is required to set up the relationship that Kate has with the very nice Ben, who just happens to be the technician for the feisty radio presenter. Her boyfriend then enters and gets angry about her use of Facetime to chat up nice Welsh bloke, and manages to convince her to accompany him to rob one of his clients. Who conveniently lives on an isolated farm in the heart of the Welsh countryside. One quick, pointless twist later and a totally wasted cameo from James Cosmo and we are thrust into horror country, where serial killers and vengeful ghosts, compete for film's attention.
"Dark Signal" has to be one of the biggest missed opportunities with regards to horror films in a long time. In general, bad horror films suffer from either terrible direction, or terrible acting thanks to the small budget of the film, and in some of these cases you can look past this. However, a low budget or even inept direction is something that this film can't be accused of. There has clearly been money invested in the film, the production values are good, the acting, in the main, is good enough that it doesn't take you out of the cinematic experience. The foundations are there for an entertaining film; it is just so disappointing that the script is just not up to it. The best thing about the film is the reveal towards the film's final act, but even that is wasted by the fact the serial killer has zero motivation, for what he does. Which would be fine if you had either an enigmatic character such as Hanibal Lector or if you had a force of nature such as Michael Myers. "Dark Signal's" serial killer ends up coming across as being more like Norris Cole from Coronation Street.
The primary cause of the movie's failure is in the way it tries to force together two sub-genres; the serial killer with a ghost story, in a completely haphazard and disjointed manner. It almost feels like the writer was trying to pay homage to some of his favourite films, but couldn't quite figure out how to do it properly. Even the use of the remote radio station, just felt as though it had been hogtied and stolen from Carpenter's "The Fog."
The narrative was disjointed and confusing, with flashbacks and cut aways seemingly inserted at random points in the film, that only served to make what was an already muddied mess even more untidy. For some strange reason, the use of so many accents in this film also didn't help. I get that in this age of migration that even the most isolated and insular of Welsh towns will have a varied range of accents, but having a Welshman, a Scotsman, a Polish woman, an Englishman, and an Italian all competing for screen time just resulted in a film that had no sense of space, or place. And when isolation is a key plot point to a film, making it feel as though the film is set in dreadful pub joke is not a splendid idea.
So you have to sit through close to 85 minutes of identity crisis movie making to get to films showdown between Norris Cole the serial killer and the plucky heroine, who despite getting kneecapped with a hammer and an iron bar is still able to drive a stick shift, engage in some serious self-defence moves. And then survive being right next to Holywood's greatest cliche, the car that not only explodes instantly but also explodes as if it is filled with three tonnes of high explosives.
The annoying thing is the vengeful spirit part of the film works rather well, and despite the use of telegraphed jump scares this section of the film was compelling enough to hold your attention. If only they had the confidence to concentrate on this aspect of the film.