Slasher films and ghost story’s are two “go to” horror sub genres for film makers wanting to dabble in horror. With Dark signal, director Edward Evers-Swindell has bended the two, but with pretty frustrating results if I'm honest. Its a shame, as the cast he has assembled are very recognisable(well, to those of us in the UK anyway) and have a wealth of acting experience.
Dark Signal starts with the most overused openings in horror. We see a young woman being murdered by a serial killer. I know this is a tried and trusted method of opening a film of this type, but there must be fresher idea’s out there! After the opening, we meet Kate(Joanna Ignaczewska-The Scopia Effect), a skint mother as she joins her partner, Nick(Duncan Pow-star of numerous uk TV shows) as they attempt to steal £40k that he is owed. Kate is the getaway driver, but soon realises things are not going as planned.
Happening at the same time, Laurie(Siwan Morris-another recognisable face of UK TV) and her producer, Ben(Gareth David-Lloyd-best known for his role in Torchwood), are preparing for their final show at a local radio station. Their special guest is Carla(Italian actress Cinzia Monreale), who just happens to be psychic. While on air, she makes contact with the dead, and while Laurie and Ben are sceptical, it becomes clear that this ghostly contact might help them find out information about a serial killer that is targeting the area. From here ill leave it to you, as i like to keep my reviews as spoiler free as i can…
As i said at the beginning, this film can be frustrating. The main source of this frustration is the narrative and script. If you are going to blend to sub-genres, do it properly. For the vast majority of the film, Dark Signal is like two separate films. When they do collide, it is seriously underwhelming. Another big issue is that nothing seems to happen for long periods, and while i like a good slow burner as much the next man( see my review for “The Forgotten” as an example), this just doesn't seem to work.
The other part that frustrated me were the characters. Despite having a group of talented, fairly recognisable actors, and despite the previously mentioned long dead periods, there isn’t enough of this time dedicated to character development. The little development there is, paints the characters as fairly unlikable, so when the time comes that we should care about them, the action and kills have little emotional impact. The final negative thing for me, is the supernatural imagery and the serial killers actions are totally unimaginative and basically kill all tension, which makes the film less scary and more(and here is that word again) frustrating.
Now, this film is not a total bust. The acting is very good for the most part. Both Siwan Morris and Gareth David Lloyd put in very good performances and do the best they can with the limp script and flimsy character development. Joanna Iganczewska lets her co-stars down though, and I'm not sure if her irritating character is down to the script, or her acting ability. One of the highlights of the film though is cult actress Cinzia Monreale. She plays her character very well.
In director Evers-Swindell’s defence, this was his first film wok since 2005(according to imdb), so i can forgive him for being rusty, and his lack of experience does explain a few of the negatives. The film did look the part, and he made the most of the stunning landscapes of North Wales.
Unfortunately i don't think the acting and stunning backdrop saved this film, and its a shame. I usually love subgenera mashups, but this was too much like a two segment anthology that was showed a section of each segment at a time. If the two stores were intertwined better, I think this film would have been so much better. I would have liked to see the character development start a lot earlier in the film too.
To Sum up, Dark Signal is a beautifully shot, well acted film, but the flimsy script, lack of character development and unimaginative killer and supernatural elements let it down massively. By all means give it a watch if your a fan if British horror, but prepare to be more frustrated, than scared!