THE DARK RED - "Don't Mess With Mama"

Do crazy people know that they are crazy? This is a question that I’m sure many of you have wondered at least once. Delusions, voices, paranoia and an altered perception of reality are just a few tropes of horror movie “crazy” but are also real life symptoms of mental illness. People suffering from these afflictions can be erratic, dangerous and capable of self-harm. As a result, they are often committed into a mental health facility for treatment. But what if all the “crazy” that the patient is experiencing was real? What if all their wild and fantastic stories were true but still outside the understanding of the average Joe. How could they get anyone to believe them?

This is the crux that lay at the heart of “The Dark Red” - the new supernatural thriller from creators Dan Bush and Conal Byrne who previously worked together on “The Vault”, starring James Franco.

“The Red Dark” begins inside a psychiatric hospital where Sybil Warren (April Billingsley) is being held against her will. Committed by the state to protect herself and the public while she is treated for schizophrenia. A long history of abuse and the trauma that comes with it combined with the loss of her child during the eighth month of her pregnancy has left her damaged.

She insists that she has been made a victim and her baby taken from here. But by who, and why? Well get your tinfoil hat ready. According to Sybil, the disembodied voices she hears aren’t a figment of her imagination. Instead she has the ability to hear the thoughts of people. Not everyone and not all the time, but frequently enough that she has been able to develop it into a skill. Once Sybil’s husband and his family - who belong to sinister secret society - discover her ability, they kidnap her to harvest both her blood and her unborn child to harness the power of this psychic ability.

Sound like the stuff of David Icke or Alex Jones? Well not quite. Where Sybil is concerned, it’s all real, and so is her struggle to be believed. She secretly builds in her mind a plan to rescue her child from what amounts to a cult before harm comes to it. She does this by “playing sane” for months. Telling her doctors what they want to hear in order to be discharged. Something Jack Nicholson’s character should have tried in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”.

Once free, Sybil hits the road – devoted to saving her child and exacting her revenge.

“The Dark Red” is an interesting flick, but my feelings about it are mixed. In my opinion, it’s strengths get in the way of each other. The mechanics of the film are all fine, especially where the acting is concerned. April Billingsley delivers a fantastic performance as a distraught and isolated victim.

My problem with “The Dark Red” is that it isn’t a terribly fun watch. Not when you consider all that it has to offer; psychic abilities, secret societies/cults, “Death Wish” style gun toting action, and a healthy dose of satanic panic tropes. These things are exciting but aren’t married terribly well with the slower character study about a violated woman who is fighting to be heard. This is particularly relevant in a time of renewed awareness of social equality and the #MeToo movement. It’s always wise to offer some personality and levity to make it’s characters more appealing and likable. Identifiable. There isn’t much room for this in “The Dark Red” unfortunately.

Regarding the satanic panic tropes, “The Dark Red” seems to more accurately depict the wild stories reported by tabloids in the ‘80s, even better than one of it’s contemplates - “Satanic Panic”. Mainly that mothers claimed their infants had been stolen by Satanic cultists for nefarious purposes – mostly sacrifice to the Dark Lord himself. In truth there wasn’t much to these claims. Most were exaggerated by the media, born of attention seeking or questionable hypnosis practices.

With all that said, “The Deep Red” is pretty good but I didn’t fall in love with how our main character was developed. Thou I do appreciate that the film had something to say – blending it’s social commentary with the supernatural world that it takes place in.

If anything I’ve mentioned peaked your interest, please go ahead and check out “The Dark Red” made available on VOD and DVD by the fine people over at Dark Sky Films.


★ ★ ★

"A young woman is committed to a psychiatric hospital and claims her newborn was stolen by a secret society to harvest its supernatural blood."