You’d Feel the Same if They Were Trying to Make an Interdimensional Portal Out of You…

In what proves to be an experience that scars his son for life, a scientist who is doing some research in remote viewing takes his child to work one day in the early 1990s and finds out that there are monsters trying to invade our world in The Dark Within.

Years pass, and the echoes of the day when Marcus (Paul Flannery) was left orphaned — his mom and dad are described as missing — still reverberate. A steady relationship with his ex, Sarah, has collapsed with a restraining order being obtained against him, and Marcus has been receiving therapy to come to terms with the mess that his life has become. (He’s apparently an artist, though that’s not quite clear). In addition, his greatest artistic creation has as a focal point this skull-headed creature that he drew as a kid on take-Marcus-to-science-lab day and he doesn’t know quite why since his memory’s repressed.

Of course, the next logical step, his therapist suggests, is for him to head out to his parents’ cabin out in the boonies that he hasn’t visited in the decades since they disappeared, and she just so happens to have obtained the key to said cabin from a trust that had been established for him.

From there on out, director-co-writer David Ryan Keith (Flannery also co-wrote) adds layer upon layer of chronological and dimensional muckery as Marcus’s stay in the cabin provides ample chance for wandering in the dark, hallucinations and lost time. The best advice is given by the benevolent voice of his mother who, rightly so, tells Marcus not to believe what he sees.

There are a couple weaknesses in the story. Papa Scientist must have had some pull to locate the site of his experiments where it was, if indeed it was a shadowy government-sanctioned experiment (one of the volunteers early on appears to be wearing a military outfit of some kind). Also, the interdimensional threat, while creepy with a sort of They Live-meets-Baby Huey appearance, never really kills anyone that we see though it sure likes to mess with poor Marcus’s head, which is kind of the point. The poor guy is stuck between dreams and reality, sees ghosts and in general can’t distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. It’s unsettling, non-linear and psychological.

Ben Nagy reviews ‘The Dark Within’: Cabin Freakouts and Skull Invaders
The Dark Within photos courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment

We finally get some flashbacks that fill in the blanks of what happened to Marcus’s folks — which was the whole point of the journey to the cabin — as the flick winds down, and the recursive conclusion of the last shot shows us that the cabin might not be where we thought it was and that a sizable chunk of what we saw also might have taken place at a more cerebral level. However, those last few seconds of run-time might leave some members of the audience feeling somewhat cheated.

Still, we have a well-shot (barring one scene in the woods that was way too dark) solo freakout in a cabin courtesy of Flannery and director Keith, reminiscent of when Bruce Campbell goes crazy in the cabin in “Evil Dead 2,” and some good blood effects. While the body count and gore might not achieve the level of that Sam Raimi classic, The Dark Within does prove that you gotta stay on your toes because those creeps from another dimension are devious bastards who want to get in, that is, if they aren’t already here.

That and don’t take your kid to work. Your yard monster might attract a literal one.

Ben Nagy reviews ‘The Dark Within’: Cabin Freakouts and Skull Invaders

Drive-In Academy Award nominations to Paul Flannery as Marcus, who also co-wrote the movie, for bugging out his eyes and saying “Down the hatch,” when he decides to drink a vial of psychotropic green juice he randomly found; for saying “I’m tired of being the only one around here who’s scared”; and for saying “She’s been fucking stabbed, OK? Just get an ambulance out here as quick as you can!” Nominations also for Kendra Corelli, as Sarah, for saying “I don’t hate you, I’m scared of you,” and for barfing out six gallons blood in one big scene and getting another gallon and a half on her in her other big scene at the end; Niko Foster, who plays the scientist dad that makes his kid chug drugs to prevent creatures from using his son’s body as the gateway for an interdimensional demonic incursion and says “Unfortunately Subject 142 had to be terminated. I’m running out of subjects”; and to director-co-writer David Ryan Keith for a crisply shot hour-and-a-half that may or may not have happened.

Also, a Drive-In Academy Special Mention goes to the uncredited voice of the world’s cheeriest 9-1-1 emergency operator, who says “That sounds terrible, please hold,” when responding to the report of a stabbing and says “Then I suggest you finish the job” and “End her suffering, you can’t save her now,” upon being told the victim is still alive.

Three stars. 

Check out The Dark Within on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Vudu for $3.99.


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Ben Nagy

Ben Nagy has written and edited stuff for newspapers, magazines and websites and randomly showed up on the doorstep of Joe Bob’s booth one day after a commute from Cleveburg. After seeing “Motel Hell” on “Monstervision” in college in 1996, Ben knew he’d make it through. You can follow him on Twitter @BJ_Nagy and he’s at most of the usual Joe Bob-related social media haunts if you want to say hi.