The Dark Red is possibly my favourite film of the latest Frightfest Presents slate – boasting great performances, a well constructed central idea and some genuinely frightening moments.
Synopsis: A young woman is committed to a psychiatric hospital and claims her newborn was stolen by a secret society to harvest its supernatural blood.
The concept of the secret society entrapping a woman to steal her unborn child is nothing new within horror and it is a real strength of The Dark Red that it manages to make that idea feel different. Director and co-writer Dan Bush has crafted a film which utilises both action and emotion to great effect. Genuinely emotional but also fast-paced and featuring plenty of forward movement, The Dark Red really is something special.
There are a few moments that didn’t quite hang together for me which I won’t go too far into for fear of spoilers but the rest of the film is just so good that this was easily overlooked. Some of the ways in which the supernatural elements work are a little fuzzy and some elements withheld until near to the end making it feel a bit sudden. Still, this in no way impacted on my enjoyment as the rest of it is just so strong. The benefit of using supernatural elements is that suspending disbelief is easy enough to overlook things that aren’t quite fully developed.
April Billingsley as Sybil is excellent – able to portray Sybil’s intense trauma in both emotional and physical manifestations. Kelsey Scott is also very impressive as Dr Deluce, tasked with assessing the increasingly unstable Sybil. The two women anchor the first half of the film in the form of emotionally-charged counselling sessions and it is this section that is perhaps the most powerful and refreshing as Sybil’s story emerges. Flashbacks punctuate the otherwise sober atmosphere of the sessions which is really effective. Conal Byrne as Sybil’s love interest David takes a strong supporting role and his chemistry with Billingsley is believable. Byrne’s writing credit means he is perhaps more connected to the material and so the performance is that much stronger.
The film contains one scare which really shook me and it is excellent that this was achieved without the use of loud noises. Rather it is an excellent use of makeup and an uncanny use of movement and imagery which causes the scare. I’ve found it has really lingered in my mind since watching, which is always the mark of a strong film.
Overall, it is difficult to write too much about The Dark Red without straying into spoilers but it is a very strong entry into the supernatural sub genre which should receive a great deal of attention.
My rating: 5/5 stars – *****/*****