Saturday, March 29, 2008


Welcome back Sporefans. Tonight we have a mixed up review of a mixed up movie. Not only does this movie have two names but it also has two imdb pages. And while the first title may appear to be similar to "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace", make no mistake as we are talking about a decidedly different animal.

As far as I can tell this movie was originally released as the title "ShadowBox" and then re-released as "DarkPlace". This isn't as uncommon as you might think in the B-movie world, as there are many titles that see re-release with a new moniker as to rake in some extra cash from used material. This practice is all over the B-movie world, why they re-use everything they can to come in under budget: actors, props, sets, sound effects, condoms. There's almost no limit to the thrifty, cash saving techniques that a good B-movie producer/director/writer might use. So why not re-use the whole movie?

Oh. Because it sucks.

This is actually quite a shock to me because the director, Philip Adrian Booth wrote and directed another movie called "Death Tunnel" which I actually enjoyed. Sure, "Death Tunnel" was a remake of the remake of "House on Haunted Hill", but it had a better location and didn't have all the Hollywood plasticity you'd see in the remake of HoHH or HoHH2: "More dumb people show up to be eaten by ghosts". While by no means original, Death Tunnel was at least a good 97 minutes of blood soaked fun. So the question you've got to ask yourself upon seeing ShadowBox/DarkPlace is:

"What the SPORE happened to Philip Adrian Booth's talent?"

Anyone with information leading to the location of the missing talent should contact Spored to Death Publishing. Not that we're going to give it back to him, we're actually just curious as to what happened. And all though we have no proof, I think I have a good theory as to what happened to the missing talent. Read on, Sporefans, and I'll reveal my theory in the course of the review.

The main problem with ShadowBox/DarkPlace/talent-devouring-hole is that the movie doesn't really make much sense. Supposedly this movie is about a kid locked in a box somewhere, and detective or a doctor or something who is investigating the box. The problem is that the movie spends so much time jumping around that the plot doesn't make any sense. The dialogue between characters is lacking, and when there is some its either distorted by special effects, or repeated over and over even though there's really nothing going on. How many times are we going to have to listen to an old guy with bad teeth say the same thing over and over again while the drunken cameraman loads the camera with equal parts film and booze and focuses on the old guy's rotten teeth? Is this what passes for a good shot in a horror movie these days?

Or could it be that Philip Adrian Booth is on "the drugs"?

And I was like... that's totally... like... awesome. And it was, like, the biggest thing in the history of mankind... got any cookies? I'm starving.

And by that I don't mean that stuff that they prescribe in a doctor's office. I mean the kind of drugs that you get from a guy behind the hardware store. It would explain the psycho-dramatic events and effects that take place in ShadowBox/DarkPlace/bad-mushroom-trip-that-shouldn't-have-been-turned-into-a-movie.

Let's take a quick look at some of the events in this film. Dr. Virgil Nichols (Dougald Park) is sitting in his office going over his notes on the supernatural events surrounding the mysterious box that they lock people in, which lies in the middle of no-where. Please temporarily put aside your question of "why would a doctor investigate this" because it won't be answered, at least not in any satisfying way. He gets a creepy phone call that tells him to get on a train. He does so. Creepy people appear and menace him. He gets off the train. Somehow he later winds up back in his office.

Prepare for some spoilers.

This movie thinks that it has something in common with Dante's Inferno. Like demons.

Also in the movie is a young man or boy named "Ian" played by both Benjamin Bryan and Timothy Lee dePriest. Flashbacks ensue. Lots of them. Beware the flashbacks. Lots of terrible things happen to Ian over the course of this movie. For example, someone locks him in a box in the middle of a field for a week. Then this movie happens.

Yes Sporefans, this whole sad movie is a flashback. Apparently this is the reason, or more likely the excuse Booth came up with, that justifies why nothing makes any sense in this movie. Now some people might claim that this is an artistic piece and that the movie's heavy symbolism is explained as the the story is an internal conflict between a boy and his inner demons. On the other hand, I might claim that this is a piece of crap and its heavy handed symbolism and lame explanation are a result of a writer who was too stoned or tripping to make any sense and then decided to pretend that there was nothing wrong with their work.

Ian is a disturbed young man. Just look at him here, all hyped up on crystal meth.

Please don't get me wrong Sporefans. I'm not saying that you can't write under the influence of psychotropic drugs. I'm just saying you should edit it when you sober up afterwards. A little clarification will go a long way into saving your movie, your career and your reputation. Without it, someone might just take your movie and stick it in a dark steel box in the middle of no-where, and then bury the damn thing. Maybe that would be for the best.

The really sad thing is that this piece of crap movie is the last thing that Matthew McGrory will ever be billed for. You may know McGrory better as the giant from "Big Fish". If you haven't seen that movie, its a simultaneously uplifting and depressing movie directed by Tim Burton, and a movie too expensive for me to ever review.

Watching Shadowplace/Darkbox/who-gives-a-crap-what-the-name-is-anymore reminded me of another actor who went out on a tragic movie note. Way back in the 1990's some guy named Steven E. de Souza decided that it would be a really swell idea to make a live action movie version of Street Fighter starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia. Unfortunately, this was Julia's last big screen appearance (though he did appear on a made for TV movie). It truly was a battle to the finish to see which would die first, Raul Julia or Van Damme's career. But somehow, despite logic, Van Damme still continues to make movies to this day... kind of like how Kevin Costner does.

Sadly, this tragic "last film" syndrome didn't have to happen to McGrory... but it did when Shadowbox was re-released in 2007 under the title of Darkplace and given the latest billing on McGrory's imdb list. Way to stick it to a dead guy Booth.

The newspaper of plot tells all. Cause, you know... dialogue is hard to write.

Curiosity overtook me. Why would Phillip Adrian Booth smear a good... OK, decent but large actor's name with his crappy re-re-released movie? Why would he subject the public to a re-re-release of his badly made drugged out psycho-drama?

OK, the correct answer is money, but that's no fun.

I decided to embark on a quest to view this movie in the state that the director was in when he created it. Not having access to regular street drugs like Booth, I decided to try the next best thing... NyQuil and Red Bull, with a healthy dose of non-toxic grade school paste just to be sure. After acquiring the appropriate ingredients, I set about turning my apartment into a seedy drug den by closing the blinds and locking the doors. Actually my apartment is usually in this state, so it was easy to set the mood. I ingested the concoction and set about my "trip".

I spent the next hour and forty minutes vomiting.

In this climactic scene, Dr. Nichols tries to save young Ian by using the ancient Eastern art of the mime, by walking against the wind.

While I was doing that, I had plenty of time to think about this incident. Maybe if a movie requires that you be on something to understand it, the movie isn't very good. Maybe if you need to be messed up beyond all belief to sit through a movie you shouldn't sit through it. Maybe I've learned my lesson and will stop watching these terrible movies.

Or maybe I should just stick to whiskey. Mmmm.... whiskey.

So I wasn't able to find any good video clips of Shadowbox/Darkplace. In fact, its probably for the best that you don't watch any of this movie at any point in your lives. I did however, find a clip from that dreadful live action version of Street Fighter that shows not only how bad this movie is, but how good Raul Julia is despite the movie. Check it out: