The Dark Red
the dark red | dan bush | conal byrne | april billingsley | kelsey scott | secret society | supernatural | mystery | thriller | united states | rhoda griffis | john curran | jill jane clements | bernard setaro clark | katie hahn | blaire hillman | robert mello
Film: The Dark Red
Director: Dan Bush
Writer: Dan Bush and Conal Byrne
Starring: April Billingsley, Kelsey Scott and Conal Byrne
This was another independent feature that I was quite intrigued by when I saw that it was showing at the Gateway Film Center. I don’t normally watch trailers, but when I go with my girlfriend I don’t want to be rude so I watched this one. It seemed pretty intriguing so I gave it a viewing. I’m going to alter the synopsis as it is a bit spoiler heavy, but a young woman is committed to a psychiatric hospital and claims her newborn was stolen by a secret society.
We start this with Kathrine Warren (Jill Jane Clements). She’s an agent that works with the Department of Children Services. She is going to check on a family that lives in a camper off the road. Inside she finds the mother dead and a young Sybil Warren (Celementine June SengStack) inside of a chest. The girl is then taken into custody where she’s adopted by Kathrine and helped by Dr. Morales (Bernard Setaro Clark).
The movie then shifts to her being April Billingsley. Sybil is in a mental institution and interviewed by Dr. Deluce (Kelsey Scott). Sybil believes that her baby was taken and that she needs to get out of this hospital immediately. Dr. Deluce asks her to tell her what happened before she can do that. Sybil tells her that it is in the file, but she is convinced to tell the story.
We get to see what she’s talking about. Sybil was at Kathrine’s funeral and she meets David Hollyfield (Conal Byrne). They go for a drink and end up back at her place. The two fall in love and she becomes pregnant. She is insistent to meet his family where he’s resisting. She goes behind his back to make this happen. His parents are Rose (Rhoda Griffis) and William (John Curran). Things take a turn during this visit that ends up with Sybil in the mental hospital. She has a history of mental illness, so we don’t know if what she’s telling is true or not, but she also claims she can read minds. Did Sybil have a baby that was taken or is she crazy and living in a delusion?
Now I tried to give as much about what this movie is about without spoiling too much here. I’m going to make this a featured review on my podcast, where I’ll have a spoiler section to delve a bit more into this so I would say to check that out.
The first thing that I want to cover though is that I think this does have an interesting premise. I like how the movie establishes that Sybil is an unreliable narrator. We’re seeing her in the hospital, so she’s been committed. There’s also a cool image of a bird in a cage in the room as well. I like that the movie establishes what she thinks happened to bring her here by showing us through sessions between her and Dr. Deluce.
Dr. Deluce does tell us what the logical explanation to all of this is. It is good here as we’re given some brief images to couple with it. I think this stuff actually works for me instead of just being told. Where the movie loses me though is what happens to get us to the climax. I like the ideas that there using as to why this all happens, but just how it plays out was a bit meh.
What makes this odd though is that there’s this supernatural element to it that I don’t really think plays much into the movie. It really seems to be the crux, but we’re convinced for a stretch that it isn’t real. Going from that though, it is pointing to what is driving Sybil to continue down this path. I don’t necessarily know if that is needed to be honest. The explanation for it works though, I will say that.
I also feel even though I liked how the movie showed us everything that Sybil was saying, it was also kind of boring. It really feels like nothing is happening and to be honest, her story is really slow as well. She is talking to Dr. Deluce and we get to see her getting her chance at happiness that is destroyed. Since I didn’t like what she ends up doing, it doesn’t hold me unfortunately.
What I will give credit to is the acting. I think that Billingsley tip-toes that interesting line of are the things she’s telling us real or does she just believe them. There are times where I’m with her and then we get some things that I think maybe it is all in her head. This is a solid performance to do that. Scott I also like as the one that trying to help her, but also not just giving into the things she’s being told. Byrne does some really interesting things with his facial expressions as well. I do get a bit of a vibe of Get Out here. This could be considered a spoiler, but if you see this and how it plays out, you know why. It isn’t completely the same so I’ll say that. I thought that Griffis and Curran are both solid as well. They’re both well to do and they fit that for how they portray their characters. The rest of the cast worked for what was needed.
The final thing to cover would be the special effects. There’s not a lot in the way of effects in this movie, but the blood we got looked really good. It had good color and we get a few different scenes where it made me cringe a bit with what they showed. I also like when they distort the images were seeing to signify that it might not be really happening that way. It is established early in this movie that memories are just recreations by our brain so I think that helps this. That also includes the cinematography here as well.
Now with that said I thought this movie did some good things and had some interesting concepts, but just didn’t necessarily work out as well. I think that the interviews, which allowed us to see the things happening, just didn’t play out in a way that kept my interest. The acting though was good across the board. I thought the effects were as well and the soundtrack fit for what was needed. I just think that some of the ideas are lost and the events leading up to the climax just didn’t work for me. I would say though that this is just slightly over average for me.
My Rating: 6 out of 10