Darken: Ambitious Canuck Female Fantasy Thriller Aims High, Lands Low

By Liam Lacey

Rating: D

A depressed young nurse, Eve (Bea Santos) enters an abandoned office building into an alternative world where, in short order, she finds herself leading a resistance movement against a hive-like cult who live in many rooms and are sustained by the blood of a mysterious figure known as Mother Darken.

 A scene from Darken.

A scene from Darken.

An indie-budget CanCon answer to the female-led fantasy franchises, The Hunger Games and Divergence, Darken is — to put it bluntly — not very gooden.

With a hodge-lodge amateur theatre aesthetic, it features a parade of outlandish characters in medieval/punk outfits chasing each other through flickering hallways, accompanied by an overbearing soundtrack. The cult leader is an icy warrior-priestess, Clarity (Christine Horne), who is accompanied by a foppish subaltern (Ari Miller), and a brutal enforcer (Rob Archer). Occasionally, they stop to make declamatory speeches in performances that are no credit to any of the actor’s reels.

Arguably, Darken is still generically competent enough to serve as the basis of a game or immersive theatre project, or pilot for a television series. There’s already an 11-part prequel digital series of three-to-four-minute shorts on YouTube, entitled Darken: Before the Dark, for those who wish to be enlightened.

Darken. Directed by Audrey Cummings. Written by RJ Lackie. Starring Bea Santos, Christine Horne, Olunike Adeliyi, Zoe Belkin, Paul Amos, Ari Millen, Dmitry Chepovetsky and Rob Archer. In theatres June 29 in Toronto (Yonge Dundas), Vancouver (Park Cineplex), Calgary (Cineplex Eau Claire & Landmark Country Hills), Winnipeg (Landmark Towne), Ottawa (Landmark Kanata 24) and Halifax (Cineplex Parklane).