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Dark Entities (Film Review)

3 min read

Terror Films 2023

Some films take on the viewer on the wildest of rides. Through travelling through thrilling , the absurdism of modern life; the surrealism of digital life; the wish fulfilment of superheroes, a film can plummet the depths of the human condition to reveal the truth about ourselves. It is a frantic yet timed assault on the senses that makes the viewer feel alive.
Then there is what Dark Entities does.
Which is the opposite of all that.       

Opening with death by open source sound effects by a family in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1947, the action jumps forward 30 years to the arrival of the Winter siblings. Wes (), Vera (Elena Ontiveros) and Ethan (Jackson Lee Turner) have moved into the murder house after the death of their parents to find peace after their trauma. But peace is in short supply as Ethan is menaced by the shroud covered murdered children from the opening and an unknown force. Painfully loud bangs from the locked attic alert the family to possible trouble. No repeated amount of the “It's an old house” cliché will calm Vera down. It's only Wes who starts to be possessed by an evil spirit that they decide to contact a local parapsychologist, Jackie (Angela Moore), to save them. Instead of just leaving the place with neither a glance back nor a farewell tip of the hat.

To say Dark Entities is cliché riddled does not do justice to it. By the end of the first Act, the clichés are the only thing holding it together. That and bad sounded editing and medium shots. At first, the viewer would be forgiven for believing that this film, billed as a horror mystery, was actually a parodic ode to the horror films of the 1970s, see Amityville and Exorcist. But through the second Act, it begins to dawn on them slowly. This is not a parody. This is a legitimate film. Every take used, every framing of a scene, every word spoken was deemed the best to instil a feeling of terror. It becomes an extensional horror by mistake.

Terror Films 2023

 

And it doesn't even do that. Many a bad horror film will show at least one or two scenes that will cause a startled reaction, even if it is only a cheap jump scare. Nothing unnerves the viewer in the one hour, 59 minutes of run time. Dark Entities cannot find their tone. This is exemplified when Ethan, the youngest family member, is first menaced by the spirits of the previous homeowners. It is less an oppressive warning of doom and more a bizarre non sequitur. Is it trying to be The Shining, with a supernatural descent into madness, Amityville, with an almost naturalistic approach to legacy horror, or Poltergeist, with its oppressive air? Ultimately, it decided to bin those ideas, become the Manos: The Hands of Fate, and risk in horror bingo and feels like a promo for a cheap haunted house attraction in a disused bordello.

Sound editing and ADR deserve particular study in how not to do sound on a film. Too crisp and audibly clear for the genre. It does not need to be mumblecore, but the foreboding sounds of spirits in the attic should not sound like they're coming from the same shot. The dialogue should not sound that sharp; there should at least be some ambient sounds, and never, ever use something that sounds like it was taken from open source. Even if you have to record a steak piece getting smacked by a hammer, do it.

It is clear that Dark Entities had a shoestring budget, but that should never be an excuse. Night of the Living Dead and Evil Dead were made with less budget than it took to photocopy the script. The Eyes of My Mother had a budget of fewer than 500,000 dollars.

That all said, there are some excellent moments in the film. Moments, not scenes. Throughout the film, ghosts hide in plain view in the background, unnoticed by a family who is too busy with their domestic problems. As the supernatural activities increase, so do the ghosts, from shadow figures to full fledge apparitions.

But, it is not enough to save this film.

Dark Entities was released on April 14th