Founded in 2006, After Dark Horrorfilms originally set out as a annual festival that released 8 films a year (also known as ‘8 films to die for’) over the course of 4 years. In 2011, After Dark’s ‘Horrorfest’ relabelled itself as ‘After Dark Originals’ and stepped away from purchasing films to producing them theirselves.
With the first batch being very uneven (and oftentimes shockingly horrendous on the acting side) last year, this year brings us another 4 movies, of which ‘Dark Circles’ is the first to be released.
Starring an unknown cast, ‘Dark Circles’ treads familiar grounds, with a family moving away to the rural side of the USA in order to escape the hectic life in the city. From it’s chilling 5 minute opening up to its eventual climax, ‘Dark Circles’ presents itself as a good start to this years run of ‘After Dark Originals’.
With the aforementioned opening 5 minutes effectively setting the tone for what’s to come, I got the feeling that this could very well be a good horror movie.
With a movie like this, and a plot that has been used countless upon countless times it’s quite hard to be original and I think the director (first time feature director Paul Soter) decided to sidestep that by just trying to give us as many creepy moments as possible. For the largest part he succeeds by giving us a rundown of the common and not so common tactics to scare us.
Loud sounds, a pov (point of view) camera, shapes in the distance drawing near, and a very ominous soundtrack consisting of the same 4 tone piano medley all work together to give us the unsettling vibe that is so highly sought after in these types of movies.
What makes a movie great though, is its story.
And while it sets out promising, with the main leads openly discussing the disturbing things they are witnessing, ultimately it degrades itself by falling back into the old habits of horror.
They start to distrust one another (which only serves as a cheap setup to give us some more scary scenes) and the plot moves from one angle to the complete opposite without any clear given reason as to why.
It didn’t manage to make me dislike the movie all together, but it took away from the experience I was having up until 50 minutes into its 86 minute total. The final resolve made me think of ‘High Tension’ a French horror movie which had an ending that totally fucked up all that came before it.
While ‘Dark Circles’ doesn’t tread the same grounds as that one, nor did it have as much impact as ‘High Tension’ had, its ending makes you wonder about the logic that’s being used here.
Can a ghost be killed by a knife? Will it come back? What about the people who die over the course of the movie? and what about the marriage that was under huge pressure up until 2 minutes before the end of the movie?
Ultimately, ‘Dark Circles’ is one of those movies that entertains, but doesn’t manage to rear its head amongst the better horror movies.
Being a virgin in this genre could benefit your experience as a viewer, but as a seasoned vet it’s a case of been there, done that.
To summarize: some genuinely creepy scenes, an effective soundtrack, decent acting and a very well shot movie make this one of the better entries into the ‘After Dark Originals’ library.
But that doesn’t mean it’s great.