Anchor Bay presents
Dark Corners (2006)
Susan: I had a terrible dream.
David: What about?
Susan: I don't know. I was bleeding. There was this key. And I had terrible hair.- (Thora Birch, Christien Anholt)
Stars: Thora Birch
Other Stars: Toby Stephens, Christien Anholt, Lorraine Bruce, Ray Charleson, Glenn Beck, Joanna Hole, Alan Perrin, Oliver Price, Michael J. Reynolds, Sarah Whitefoot
Director: Ray Gower
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (horror violence, disturbing images)
Run Time: 01h:32m:04s
Release Date: 2007-05-22
DVD ReviewThe clever horror title Dark Corners is the writing/directing debut for Englishman Ray Gower, and in it Thora Birch plays two different yet similar women, each of whom seemingly exists only in the nightmares of the other. Both women have very distinct lives, and at the outset it appears easy to tell which is apparently real and which is a bad dream, because one is bright and shiny and the other bleak and scary.
The bad dreamworld Thora Birch has black hair, vomits mysterious keys into dirty toilets, and lives in a shadowy place with harsh, flickering florescent lighting that resembles the bathroom in Saw, while the other Thora Birch is blonde, happily married to nice guy David (Christien Anholt) and going through the beginning stages of in vitro fertilization with the hopes of becoming pregnant. It's easy to see the differences between the two, but as the story progresses the interconnection increases.
Each woman having nightmares about the other would certainly be problem enough, but when elements begin to crossover from good dreamworld to bad—and vice-versa—Gower is able to nurture a compounding sense of confusion as the perception of reality quickly becomes all cockeyed. To add to this there's a menacing serial killer who files his teeth to sharp points, a mysterious therapist with a single black fingernail, a cadaverous mortician who looks half dead and a bus full of creepy looking weirdos who have all perfected the art of the evil grin. Gower juggles the two Thora Birch characters back-and-forth, slowly interconnecting the two with flashes of creepiness into a resolution that is satisfyingly grim.
Gower assembles the dark materials quite effectively, yet I have to wave the Thora Birch flag pretty high and hard for Dark Corners, because her performance is what really brings it all together nicely. She never overplays either role, and the similarity between the two characters is done in a very easy, natural manner, with the actress relying more on eye-rolling and tiny smirks instead of the overused genre staple of shrieking histrionics that most female leads are stuck with. Gower also helps the cause by giving her dialogue that sounds like everyday conversation, and Birch gives these words an accurately understated delivery that manages to play realistically.
And all of my babbling Thora Birch praise shouldn't in any way undercut the work of Gower, who shows a keen eye for being able to mix together some genuine eerieness for the duration. And that includes a rather disturbing moment when the needle-toothed serial killer performs an impromptu bit of surgery on a character; it's an uncomfortable scene on a number of levels, and even when Gower sells it with a gratutious shot it happens the like bad dream it may or may not be. I've become conditioned that most horror films—especially a low-budget title such as this—will hopelessly fall apart by the final act, as if a good plot concept could just never get bear the weight of an ending that seemed worthy or just.
Thankfully Gower carries it through all the way to the bitter end with Dark Corners, providing a conflict resolution that is both expected and shocking, which in turn makes the film as a whole seem somehow more substantial.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Not to sure why Anchor Bay released this one in nonanamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen, even though the backcover states it is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. It's a real headscratcher, especially since the menu is anamorphic. The print itself is fairly strong for a low-budget horror title, even with some periodic muddy blacks. Colors are bright when needed (there are times when Birch as the blonde Susan looks absolutely golden), and then can look metallic and desaturated when the story calls for it. Edge details also seem to vary greatly from scene to scene, with some moments of softness balanced by sharp definition.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The backcover just lists a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, yet there is also a 2.0 option available (both in English). The 5.1 selection is noticeably beefier—most dramatic during the darker Birch-as-Karen parts of the film when things are much more sinister and threatening—and the rear channels get used frequently, as does the .LFE. Voice clarity is never an issue, and there is sense of some directional movement via front channel pans.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Apartment Zero, Pleasure Drivers
Extras Review: Aside from a couple of trailers, the sole extra is Out Of The Shadows - Making Dark Corners (13m:00s). Writer/director Ray Gower talks of his hope to meld bits of Lynch, Cronenberg and Craven into the mix, as well as borrowing elements of Asian horror. The featurette mixes clips from the film, with interviews from the cast explaining their characters, and the segment also includes things like the makeup effects for villain Oliver Price and a comparison of storyboards with the final cut. Nothing wholly groundbreaking here, but inexplicably watchable regardless.
The disc is cut into 16 chapters.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsAnchor Bay's nonanamorphic treatment of Dark Corners is disappointing, made more problematic considering the backcover lists it as "enhanced for 16x9 televisions". Consider this fair warning.
It's a disappointment because this is a grim, trippy title, full of horrible nightmares inside of even more horrible nightmares, all connected by a smart performance from the under-appreciated Thora Birch.
Horror fans should see the film, and not the transfer. Recommended.
Rich Rosell 2007-05-17