Dark Haul Blu-ray Review
Directed by Daniel Wise
Written by Ben Crane
2014, Region A, 87 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on March 10th, 2015
Tom Sizemore as Knicks
Rick Ravanello as Damon
Evalena Marie as Zib
Anthony Del Negro as Tommy
Kevin Shea as Father Tito
Greg Nutcher as Father Leeds
Kerry McGann as Mother Leeds
Adrienne LaValley as Maya
The prophecy tells that the thirteenth child of the thirteenth child will be born both man and beast, signaling the destruction of the human race. Standing in our defense is a secret society of religious guardians who are on the case, and have held said beast captive for three hundred years. The creature has a half-human sister named Zib, who is also closely guarded, but what should be this legendary duo's fate? This question has plagued the guardians for some time, and the temptation to simply kill them grows stronger. Some feel they must be kept alive in order to maintain balance in the universe...or something. I'm not really sure why their leader, Damon, wants to keep these things breathing, and neither is his teammate Knicks. It is decided that the monsters should be moved to consecrated ground in Pennsylvania, and the best way to do so is by way of 18-wheeler semi truck. Before you can hope for a Smokey & The Bandit mixed with demons road movie, the plot descends into mindless bickering and some truly horrendous CGI. Things recover in time for the grand finale, but never amount to much in this latest low budget SyFy Channel offering.
Daniel Wise makes his directorial debut with Dark Haul (aka Monster Truck), a low-budget creature-feature about the legendary Jersey Devil. Wise has seen a lot of movies and borrows from the best, but his limitations as a director quickly become apparent, as things fall apart before they get started. The script, written by first-timer Ben Crane, is not doing anyone any favors, as it is filled with lots of big action and even bigger ideas, but fails to connect as an overall story. Crane introduces quite a bit of exposition and a lengthy history of events building up to the wild ride, but the dialogue is clunky and heavy-handed. The main problem comes in the refusal to answer why the creatures must be kept alive. So much energy is spent showing how deadly the winged demon is, but our protagonist insists on keeping it in motion rather than buried deep inside a government bunker. This results in a lot of relatively smart characters being forced to do dumb things in order to get the story to the finish line.
Tom Sizemore (Furnace) continues to pay off debts and other bad decisions as he slums his way through the role of Knicks, a man who feels he is above his current work environment; sadly ironic given the actor's once-impressive résumé. Knicks knows how to kill this weird demon thing, and says so at least a dozen times, but his knowledge falls on deaf ears, as the script insists the status quo be maintained until the last reel. Rick Ravanello (The Cave) is our hero, Damon, but he really isn't much of a leader, as he repeatedly puts everyone in danger. If there is one bright spot to the cast, it is Evalena Marie (Remains) as Zib, who lends a much-needed intensity to her role, especially in the numerous conflicts with Sizemore. She falters only when the screenplay refuses to play fair with her motivations, but emerges largely unscathed. Making the most of his limited screen time is the always-welcome Kevin Shea (Kids Go to the Woods...Kids Get Dead) as Father Tito. Rounding out the rest of the cast are a few familiar faces from the low-budget cinema buffet, including Anthony Del Negro (Dead Souls) as Tommy and a pair of blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances from Greg Nutcher (Alien Opponent) and Kerry McGann (Chilling Visions).
The main attraction in a film like this is the creature itself, and when it appears onscreen as either a puppet or a man in a rubber suit, then it is pretty cool. The problem is that the majority of the time we actually get a good look at this beast, it is a poorly-realized CGI cartoon refugee from an old PlayStation 2 video game. Some of the most egregious moments arise when the monster is thrust into broad daylight, where it awkwardly basks in its mediocrity. There are some shots that almost score some cool points, but they are immediately followed by what looks like unfinished test footage once inserted as a place holder in the edit, but never fully completed before release. Luckily, the rubber suit is brought out for the finale and is still a welcome addition, even if it comes too late. Dark Haul is an uneven film that is moderately entertaining, but instantly forgettable. The biggest question I am left with is how Scream Factory managed to wrestle this title away from The Asylum, and why?
Video and Audio:
Dark Haul is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and looks pretty much like a movie less than a year old should. Colors and black levels are both fine and there is plenty of small-object detail, but there are some inconsistencies in clarity within the numerous darker sequences. There is never an issue of macro-blocking or smearing, but the lower the light, the bigger the problems.
The disc offers both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 for your listening pleasure. Given the option, I defaulted to the surround mix and found this one to be pretty respectable. The sound design puts all the speakers to work, but never really knocked my socks off. Instead, viewers get a decent presentation that gets the job done.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The only bonus feature on the disc is the theatrical trailer.