The Dark Red (2018)

Director: Dan Bush
Starring: April Billingsley, Kelsey Scott, Conal Bryne, Rhoda Griffis .USA. 1h 41m

An interesting idea with lots of character twists and turns in Dan Bush’s courageous drama that taps into the bond of blood of a particular family with uncanny powers. For the most part what seems to be a challenging time for one woman in a mental institution eventually creeps into a much more powerful action drama that has all the making of a really decent sci-fi fantasy drama but doesn’t come across with as much power as it might have if handled differently, but it did keep me glued while it transformed into something deeper and more meaningful, maybe there will be a chance to break this story open in a sequel?
I’m getting ahead of myself, but once you go get to the end of Dan Bush’s brave drama there’s a lot to reflect on. Like any good director he starts at the beginning, a very dark and depressing beginning, which sees a young girl removed from her trailer home by child services, after spending days crying next to her mother’s drug laden corpse. She grows up with a wonderful foster family but so why is retelling this haunting childhood story to her doctor in a mental institution

Bush begins to scratch out two stories, one of Sybil Warren’s (Billingsley) current situation, within the clinical hospital and her warm home life up until this point. There are some strange childhood therapy sessions where she’s taught that she can make a metal “safe place”, a chance meeting at her new mother’s funeral that leads to a whirlwind romance and pregnancy and the revelation of her psychic abilities. But in the current day, she is without a child and with no record of ever giving birth, but she still insists that Dr Deluce (Scott) has the wrong information and she did indeed have a child which was stolen by a secret cult. Nothing too unusual hey?

It’s not too annoying in the sense of running the two story lines, this can lead to a tedious and over complicated narrative, but Bush uses this to his advantage as it helps the steady flow of new twists, and keeps the tension of the story high.

The scariest thing about her story is that on one believes it.

Sybil is incredibly determined to prove that she did have a baby but at every turn there’s another piece of evidence to prove her crazy if she continues to think along those lines. But she’s also insistent that she’s psychic and has some mad mental skillz, but with the drugs and with some crazy atunement issues it’s also something else she can’t prove. Is she just really crazy? In the stark harsh reality of her hospital she comes to the conclusion to play their game, stop admitting her truth so she can get out and get her child back.

This is where the movie begins to rush through it’s narrative a little and at a point where so much swings around, what was a wordy drama now dresses up something more robust with lots going on, Sybil is now the new Sarah Connor, she’s got a lot of catching up to do if she ever wants to learn this cults secrets and infiltrate them to retrieve her child, if indeed there is a child.. There’s a big enough break in the movie for the audience to start wondering if this is going to be like Unsane (2018) or The Sound of My Voice (2011) where you’re never quite sure if you’re being fed the right reality.

There’s a lot of shooting, harsh words, and Scanner-esque beatdowns in the second half which is way shorter than it needs to be, all of the kick ass revenge is what attracts an audience to this type of thriller. As The Dark Red begins to resemble an indie version of Scanners it refuses to give up its laid back atmosphere and quiet demeanor but the story stays strong and continues to deliver new twists right until the bitter end. I enjoyed the movie. It’s not a hard watch by any means, it could have done with some more convincing acting in the first part but the ending makes it worth the wait. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t as much action as there could have been, in this rich and diverse fantasy drama.

Rating: 4/10

R: The Signal (2007), Get Out (2019), Scanners (1981)
L: Psychic Flicks
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