Hot Docs 2014: The Darkside Review

The Darkside

The Darkside

Mystery, Myth, and Legend

If nothing else, Warwick Thornton’s documentary The Darkside is certainly an original concept. Over many months Thornton collected a series of ghost stories from a variety of sources across Australia then shot first person retellings of the best ones along with re-enactments from local actors. The 13 stories depicted in the film vary wildly in tone and execution. Some are classic campfire yarns, some are spiritual visions, some are funny, some are touching, some are downright creepy. Regardless, they’re all undeniably compelling, as is Thornton’s presentation. The first person recollections unfold in long takes that allow each storytellers’ personal skill to speak for itself. The re-enactments are filled with wonderful performances and striking visuals that make a stylish and evocative impact.

Thronton’s decision not to editorialize, question, or frame the tales beyond his subjects’ views is intriguing. It allows each story to stand on its own and the impact is derived primarily from personal recollection and raconteur skill. The jagged stop and start structure, however, prevents the filmmaker from developing a consistent tone or structure. By the end there is little impact beyond the strength of the individual pieces.

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But for those intrigued by the supernatural and/or traditional storytelling, there’s an undeniable charm to the project. Thornton has certainly created something interesting that furthers his reputation as a unique and talented filmmaker. It’s a fine true life horror anthology. (Phil Brown)

Screens

Friday, April 25, ROM Theatre, 9:00pm

Saturday, April 26, Scotiabank 3, 1:30pm

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Sunday, May 4, Royal Cinema, 9:30pm

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