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By Brent Moore | July 27, 2006

One thing that movies have taught me is to be wary of returning home for a friend or family member’s funeral. Home is a scary place full of dark secrets and long-held grudges and nothing brings those to the fore like a well-dressed dead body. I guess Neil Murphy didn’t watch many movies because he dives head first into this trap. Or perhaps he just doesn’t remember all those important life lessons learned from film as he seems to possess the worst memory of anybody ever.

You see, Neil’s old friend Danny has just passed away and Neil believes that there is something more going on than people are letting on. Danny’s sister Lisa refuses to talk about it and so, with the help of her boyfriend, Neil takes it upon himself to find out how Danny died. Along the way, Neil re-discovers things about his past that are hard to believe he forgot in the first place. Oh yeah, I was best friends with that guy, I did rape that girl, I have been to this house before. It doesn’t really paint the best picture of this guy.

That is actually one of the main problems with “Into the Black”. Neil, played by Paul Sacks, is just not a likeable guy. He is an a*****e to everyone and the more we learn about his past, the more we hate him. You’re never rooting for him to get to the bottom of the mystery and get the bad guy because he is the bad guy.

Fortunately, the supporting characters come off much better. When the movie gets away from the unbelievable main story and focuses on characters and their relationships is when it really shines. There are moments with Neil’s father (Paul Burke) that are so genuine and touching that it’s slightly shocking they are from the same movie. Sheila Guzman as Lisa Sherman also puts in a very good performance and really sells the grief of her brother’s loss.

But, alas, the movie has a story to tell and can’t spend all its time dawdling with side characters, but the least it could do was hurry things along. The last half of the movie suffers from some lazy editing and sequences that go on for way too long which just sucks the life out of the film. Right when we should be building up to our climax the movie just stops and what little interest I had was lost. And instead of rewarding my patience with a satisfying and believable conclusion I get an answer to the big mystery that doesn’t stand up to examination and an ambiguous final confrontation that just doesn’t deliver the proper pay-off.

It all just makes me wish Neil never came back and we spent the entire movie watching his Dad try to keep the neighbor’s dog from shitting on his lawn. There’s a conflict I actually care about.

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