Friday, March 30, 2012

If you imagine a horror movie by a frustrated director of music videos....

... you'll probably come up with something like this one.

Lady of the Dark: Genesis of the Serpent Vampire (2011)
Starring: Melanie Denholme
Director: Philip Gardiner
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

An even-tempered and normal young woman (Denholme) is possessed by an ancient, vengeful spirit and transformed into a sadistic, blood-thirsty monster.

If I spend waaaay too much time thinking about what this movie "means," I could probably come up all sorts of blather about how it's an allegory for the theological idea of corruption of innocense (there's actually little doubt that's what the writer/director WANTED it to be... altough the introductory dialogue seems to run counter to that), how it chillingly tracks a young woman's decent into psychotic madness (which is does... although it does so as effectively as a treasure map sketched by a drunken pirate, because we so very little of what she was like before she became unglued and violent), or any number of things.

But I'm not going to spend any more time than I already have, because I think the filmmakers weren't entirely certain of their ideas and what interperatations they wanted viewers to make as the film unfolded. If they WERE certain, their points became muddled in the disjointed and chaotic way the story is told.

Because the way the story is told is the biggest problem with the film. In fact, it feels far more like a demo-reel than an actual movie, showcasing director Philip Gardiner's ability to film in different styles or create dramatic effects with camera tricks rather than big budget CGI... or showcasing actress Melanie Denholme's ability to portray a range of emotions. All in all, "Lady of the Dark" feels more like a collection of music videos that a movie, as most it consists of scenes of Melanie Denholme walking around while goth rock or some variety of metal plays.

Denholme, in fact, portrays the only character in the film that gets any significant screen time at all, and this leads to the film's second big problem. We are led to believe, both through her own narration and by the mundane activities that she spends the first half of the movie doing, that Denholme's character Eve is just your average, happily married young woman. However, we never see the husband, nor do we we see her interacting with anyone at all... either second-hand through her narration or through scenes. We basically learn nothing about who she is or how she interacts with others until she turns into a sadistic murderer in the film's second half. While what Eve turns into is horrific and the scenes of her madness and sadism are chilling and horrific, they would have been even more impactful if Eve had been given more depth as a character.

But the way the film is put together doesn't allow for depth. Demo-reels are not intended to convey depth of character or stories, just to provide a sampling of what the creator is capable of.

I think that Philip Gardiner might be capable of making a good movie if he would actually apply himself to making one... but judging from this film and "Men in Black: The Dark Watchers" , I don't know that he's tried to make a full-blown movie. He is one hell of a director of music videos that much is clear... and it's made even more so by the fact that the actual music video included as a bonus feature on the DVD I screened is more interesting than the main attraction.

The rating I'm giving this film is a low, but still generous, 3 Stars. That said, if you're into music videos, or the world's biggest Melanie Denholme fan, you'll probably like the film more than I did.

(In the interest of full disclosure, this review was based on an advanced screening copy that was provided to me by distributor Chemical Burn.)

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