Dom Portalla’s award-winning “The Darkness Within” is a psychological-thriller that messes with the mind in that surreptitious way that shocker-addicts only dream about, but very rarely see in contemporary film. With an ending that will trip up even the most seasoned chiller-investigator, “Darkness” has a tightly constructed plot that seems cut from the same MacGuffin-ridden cloth as the one used by Hitchcock—and that’s quite a feat.
In Portalla’s story, freelance videographer Chad Morgan (Jimmy Scanlon) and his fiancé Ashley Sera (Michelle Romano) move into a basement apartment in a working class neighborhood. Chad, a bespectacled, geeky-type really lucks out with the gorgeous and vivacious Ashley, who works as a bartender at a local establishment. Chad and Ashley fix up their home, deal with pesky spiders, and have the usual tiffs newly engaged couples have—until we see that things are not quite as normal as they could be. For one thing, there’s that creepy neighbor named Mr. Reed (Ken Flott), who appears to be a voyeur. Then there’s the trash-talking landlord’s daughter (Stephanie Maheu), who passes the time smoking weed, playing video games, and leading Chad down the path of booze-laden destruction. Of course, Chad is easily led in that direction because as we soon learn, he has a history of alcoholism, which seems to affect his personality in not so nice ways. It turns out his sweet fiancé has a past, too, and is constantly having to explain why her Ex keeps leaving messages on a cell phone that she all too easily forgets at home. Ahhh… life on the home-front—but what’s with Mr. Reed???
Portalla’s film may not be perfect, with those occasional moments of actorial-choppiness and a few irritating pacing-issues that may or may not have roots in post-production, but for the most part, “The Darkness Within” comes as close to Indie-heaven as any new thriller could, and is a film that’s well worth a gander. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.
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