A Light in the Darkness DVD Review
Directed by Marshall E. Uzzle
Written by Marshall E. Uzzle and Matt Terzian
2002, Region 1 (NTSC), 100 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on October 24th, 2006
Matt Terzian as Taylor Melnick
Karen Black as Mrs. Melnick
Geoffrey Lewis as Stanley Melnick
Troy Bailey as Kira Hansen
A Light in the Darkness is a dreary film about Taylor Melnick, a twitchy obsessive-compulsive nerd who is prematurely released from an insane asylum. Melnick ultimately finds his way back to his hometown, and quickly gets wrapped up in the lives of the losers who reside there. There is the droopy-faced sad-sack archeologist uncle who pissed away all of Melnick's money while he was in the nuthouse, the nosey drunkard next door MILF who ping-pongs between disgust and lust for Melnick at the twist of a Dewars cap, a cross dressing crime-lord who looks like an extra from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and other dregs of humanity all vying for the last piece of Melnick's sanity. Taylor Melnick himself is not immune to his own personal demons, which mostly revolve around the memories of his vicious condescending mother who seemingly took great pleasure in deriding her son every chance she could.
While I did not like A Light in the Darkness at all, I will concede to the possibility that there might be a decent film contained somewhere within. Maybe. The problem is that I went into this movie with certain expectations and was thoroughly disappointed with the reality. When the cover of the DVD shows a picture of a bad-ass in a full-length duster carrying an axe in what seems to be some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the back cover has a huge quote that takes up 1/4th of the real-estate comparing this movie to the likes of Saw, The Shining, and The Devil's Rejects you start to get some preconceived notions as to what you might be in for. With that said, the only thing A Light in the Darkness has in common with those previously aforementioned horror movies is that they are all shot in color and that you use the rods & cones in your eyeballs to send the moving images to your brain. That's about it. After finishing the film I was so shocked by how UN-like those movies A Light in the Darkness is, that I felt compelled to see what shill of a reviewer had the nerve to make such an off-base claim. And then it became crystal clear. In the bottom right corner in teeny-tiny letters barely discernible with the naked eye credits that outlandish quote to "IMDB user comment". Sigh.
The performances are well-above average for a low-budget direct-to-video horror film thanks to the casting of a pair of legendary character actors. Karen Black as the deranged mother brings it, as always, however her scenes are few and far between. When you have an iconic actress who appeared in films by Hitchcock, and alongside Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, and Robert Redford, won two Golden Globes, and received an Academy Award nomination, you don't limit her screen time to essentially a bunch of hokey split-screen flashbacks. The other standout is Geoffrey Lewis, blessed with a face like a bloodhound, who plays hapless losers like nobody in the biz. The weak link is Matt Terzian as Taylor Melnick. While the monotone delivery is somewhat excusable given the characters psychological state, the fact that Mr. Terzian evidently equates constant (and I mean constant) head twitching to psychosis is equal parts annoying and distracting.
Tsk, tsk, to the marketing department responsible for this debacle. You made one type of film, now just stand by it for what it is. Don't blatantly deceive the public by advertising this movie as something it clearly is not. A slick cover and a quote from some shut-in who trolls the IMDB forums in his underwear won't make up for the fact that A Light in the Darkness is a dull, boring, confusing mess lacking action, blood, gore, scares, or an ounce of true suspense, and has about as much in common with Saw or The Shining as an emergency broadcast signal does with Mozart.
Video and Audio:
The video quality was fine, neither offensive or spectacular. There was some occasional grain artifact noted during most of the darker scenes, however. The movie is in anamorphic widescreen which is always appreciated. The audio is 2.0 and the dialogue is clear and distinct.
The extras are equally as odd and disappointing. For some reason there is a completely unrelated black & white animated short contained within the DVD, as well as director’s storyboards (which is odd considering there aren’t any scenes containing actual action within the film), an infuriating “Progression of a Poster” montage which shows about 20 other DVD covers that wouldn’t have been quite as misleading as the one that was ultimately chosen, a still gallery, a long trailer, and some sneak previews.