A crime thriller without the cops, the Welsh thriller “Darklands” relies on little blood and gags to get its point across.
A reporter investigates the ritual sacrifices of a cult. Let’s dig into 1996’s DARKLANDS, directed by Julien Richards!
As I See It
If you were to read the pithy review in Variety back in 1997, you would get the wrong idea about this film.
I’m not saying the reviewer was wrong in lambasting it, the film is a slog, but they went more for catchy one-liners than a genuine review of the content. Calling the tribal, almost aboriginal-like ritual dancers punks is a misnomer if I’ve ever seen one.
Actually, the sacrificial rituals were some of the most entertaining parts of the film. The droning chants and earthly body makeup were pretty good.
Where the reviewer lazily related the film to Wicker Man, I would say it pulled more from films like one of my favorite Digs, Richard Stanley’s brilliant Dust Devil, and the John Schlesinger film The Believers, which starred Martin Sheen and Jimmy Smits and got a Dig itself a while back.
If the Brits, or Welsh more specifically, had ever attempted a Giallo, this would probably be the installment.
Darklands is a crime thriller at its core, but the story is so loose and open that the sense of dread and threat of danger is never urgent enough to be interesting. That twist at the end was as predictable as the end of my nose.
Craig Fairbanks (Frazer) isn’t as bad a leading man as that Variety review would lead you to believe, but he does seem more of a strong support cast type of fella, as was evident from his role in the Sylvester Stallone climbing thriller Cliffhanger.
Of Gratuitous Nature
The ritual sex scene, which didn’t seem too harsh of a punishment, was like Burning Man on strong acid.
This is a bit of a cop-out, as I was very tempted to put Rowena King (Rachel) here since she has a Lisa Bonet vibe going, but the title sequence of the industrial plant set against a blood-red horizon is one of the best tone setting openings I can recall from a film that I didn’t much like.
Ripe for a Remake
There is nothing new under the blood-red sun.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
There is no physical release, as far as I can tell, not in HD anyway. You can stream Darklands on Shudder (as I did) or AMC+.