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13.1.14

WRITTEN REVIEW: Darklands

By CORY CARR
Recently we were asked to take a look at the works of Julian Richards, a filmmaker from the UK. I didn’t realize it at the time but I have seen some of Richards films at the Eerie Horror Film Festival, Summer Scars in 2007 and Shivers in 2012. The later has recently been released in the States on DVD & Blu-Ray.

Darklands has several related plots that chug along until they finally converge with the investigative work done by Frazer Truick, played by Craig Fairbrass. As a veteran reporter, he has been asked to train Rachel Morris, an aspiring journalist who‘s brother recently passed away as a result of a smelting accident. As they work together, Rachel opens up to Frazer and explains that her brother’s death was rather suspicious. She asks Frazer to look into it for her, seeing as he has more experience, he may be able to use his connections to come up with a lead or two.

Frazer and Rachel are soon sent out on assignment to cover the ribbon cutting ceremony at a new maternity ward of the local hospital. The funds to build the maternity ward were donated to the hospital by David Keller who is an industrialist, philanthropist and nationalist politician, who urges the fine people of Wales, where the film takes place, that a cultural change needs to be made to return to their Celtic roots.

This is all unfolding while a series of ritualistic crimes have been taking place in recent weeks. The most recent of which was a church vandalization that involved the sacrifice of a pig, found hanging above the altar. Early on, Christianity was used as a weapon against pagan beliefs. People were violently forced to convert or be put to death. It is suspected that the vandals are inspired by their pre-Christian heritage and are trying to reclaim what was taken from their ancestors.

Frazer, having reservations of Keller’s politics, begins to put the pieces together that perhaps he is somehow involved with the recent vandalism and rituals.

Frazer begins to look into the death of Rachel’s brother, and it becomes ever clear that his death is also connected to the rituals. Everywhere Frazer turns, he is confronted with a growing conspiracy involving murder, dirty police and ancient prophecy that extends to Rachel herself, whom Frazer is now romantically involved with.

After some old fashioned detective work, Frazer discovers that Rachel was paid by a mysterious stranger, who we later learn is a police officer working for the pagan cabal, who wants her to seduce Frazer. Their lovechild will be born into the world as a new Messiah for the Celtic people and perhaps the world. For this to happen, Frazer must be sacrificed.

The film reaches it’s climax when Frazer realizes that he isn’t safe. There is no one who can/will help him, so he tried to flee the country but is captured. The druidic cult, lead by David Keller, yeah he was the bad guy the whole time, string Frazer up by his feet. Keller begins the sacrificial ritual and with the words “The old flesh is dead, long live the new!”, his throat is slit and he dies fulfilling the prophecy.

Nine months later, there is a set up for a sequel, when Frazer’s child is born into the hands of Keller. I believe the sequel was titles Messiah, but I can’t seem to find any information about the films, so I could be wrong.

THE VERDICT
Being a bit of a Viking at heart, I always get a kick out of films that focus on pre-Christian themes rather than on God and the Devil when it comes to “good vs. evil”. The Wicker Man and Halloween 3 for example. I think people, especially in America, forget that there were all kinds of beliefs and traditions that existed long before Christianity and I enjoy finding them in stories such as Darklands. The struggle of “good vs. evil” is a simple concept that I think is overused. It often is boiled down to the stuff of children’s morality tales. It is refreshing to find a little but of world history sprinkled in to the mix. But I digress.

While I enjoyed Darklands I don’t think every horror fan will fall in love with it. It begins a little clumsy and will take some patience before it gets good. It is also a bit of a modernization of The Wicker Man. The plot follows along a very similar path involving a man investigating a missing person/death, only to realize when it’s too late that he was the one in danger all along.

The parts in the beginning that required patience mostly involved the heavy handed use of pagan rituals. The Frazer character makes the viewer feel like a genius when he isn’t able to read the writing on the wall, figuratively as well as literally. He begins investigating the church vandalism involving a sacrificed pig. As he stands facing the pig hanging above the altar, he says, “I think there is a religious side to this”. DUH!

Things get better as the story unfolds, but from the beginning I wondered to myself, “Are you kidding me?”

Julian Richards films have always been pretty solid, no two of which are the same. I‘m looking forward to his future films, whatever they will be. Darklands is definitely worth checking out, especially if you like The Wicker Man.

DARKLANDS

★ ★ ★

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