To say I was excited when the press release for The Dark Within dropped into my inbox is somthing of an understatement. You see, I am a HUGE fan of writer/director David Ryan Keith’s 2017 film Ghosts of Darkness which, despite numerous [aborted] release dates, has yet to hit physical media here in the UK. That film was a fantastic horror comedy which really showed off both director Keith and actor Paul Flannery – both of whom team up for their follow up effort The Dark Within. A film that could not be, thematically, further from their previous film but is still yet another sublime genre film from the duo.
Whereas Ghosts of Darkness mixed horror and laughs, The Dark Within is very much more of a horror film; telling the story of Marcus, a disturbed man with unknown psychic abilities who tries to unravel the mystery of his parent’s disappearance while battling his own demons. Demons which may, or may not, be real! Let’s just say this film lacks many laughs, taking on instead much more serious tone and, of course, featuring scares a-plenty!
However both of David Ryan Keith’s films do share one huge similarity.
In fact I think what helped Ghosts of Darkness be such a success certainly helps The Dark Within: namely actor, and co-writer of the film this time around, Paul Flannery; who in The Dark Within goes one further than his role in Ghosts of Darkness. In the latter film he was part of a double-header, holding down the film alongside Michael Koltes; however here the film is all Flannery’s. This is a one-man performance, with the actor runing the gamut of emotions and, more importantly, psychological traumas.
That’s because The Dark Within plays out, for ther most part, as something akin to the Evil Dead films, with Flannery’s character seemingly “trapped” in his old family home (or is he trapped in his own mind? That’s a question that lingers throughout Keith’s film) with something, or someone, playing mind games with him. Or it could be his own twisted psyche… After all, as a child he was present – as seen in the films opener – at a number of strange medical experiments into telepathy and remote viewing that his father was overseeing. Yes, this is very much like the “mad Ash” scene in Sam Raimi’s film extended to feature length but, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, better.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; and I’ll probably keep saying it ’til I’m blue in the face, but why the hell has Paul Flannery not been cast in every British horror film production going? His screen presence is ridiculously captivating – which is why this essentially one-man film works so well, and he can make even the most cliched line feel like it has un-ending gravitas. Whilst he has performed on stage it’s hard to believe this is literally only his second credited film role on IMDb.
Like Keith’s Ghosts of Darkness, The Dark Within has some effective scary moments, with some grotesque (and very bloody) imagery from the get-go – seemingly rendered in both CGI and practical effects; with a fantastic looking “monster” that reminded me of an unmasked Sam from Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r’ Treat, only if he was a LOT bigger and even more menacing.
I’ve only seen two of David Ryan Keith’s films, so far, but both have been marked by impressive production values, great storytelling and superb acting. Making Keith, and his star Paul Flannery, something of an unsung heroic duo of the British horror scene in my eyes. All I can say is more please!