25th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘Dark Sense’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: James Robinson, Maggie Bain, Jim Sturgeon, Siobhan Redmond, Gordon Kennedy, Corin Edgar Robert | Written by Geoff Dupuy-Holder, Alistair Rutherford | Directed by Magnus Wake


The feature debut of Scottish director Magnus Wake, Dark Sense is adapted from the First and Only, the best-selling novel by Peter Flannery. Unfortunately, whatever virtues the novel possessed have been rather lost in its translation to the screen, resulting in a supernatural thriller that fails to convince on a number of levels.

Set in present-day Edinburgh, the plot begins with young Simon (Corin Edgar Robert) experiencing a terrifying vision of a murderer killing a local priest. Arriving too late to stop the crime, Simon is traumatised, which blocks his psychic powers. However, years later, an older Simon (now played by Shane O’Meara) experiences another terrifying vision, this time of his own death at the hands of a serial killer wearing a black mask.

With just four days until his death, Simon recruits ex-SAS soldier Steve Brennus (Jim Sturgeon) to be his bodyguard and to help him track down the killer. Meanwhile, a sinister government agency decide Simon is a danger to society and assign MI5 Agents Chatham (Maggie Bain) and Stokes (Graeme McKnight) to watch over him, with a view to taking him out, should his psychic powers manifest any further.

Dark Sense‘s biggest problem is that none of the character interactions are remotely believable. That’s partly down to the unconvincing performances and partly down to the terrible dialogue, with the actors forced to deliver clunkers like, “You could rule the world but you’re just a bloody whinger!”

On top of that, Wake’s direction has no sense of pace. Despite a plot that has a ticking clock built into it, the first act is painfully slow, crawling along at a tedious rate when it ought to be a frantic race against time.

On a similar note, the script is riddled with plot holes. The biggest of these is that the killer (who apparently lives in a church) seems like he’d be pretty easy to spot, even before he takes his mask off. Once he does, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have been on the police’s radar from day one, as he’s definitely the sort of chap you’d call the police about even if you just passed him on the street.

In addition, the sinister government agency subplot is so half-hearted that it barely registers, so there’s no sense of threat at all, when it ought to feel like the net is closing in. It doesn’t help that Simon’s already seen his own death, so the government agency are never really on his radar.

There are other really annoying elements too, such as a powerfully emotional moment that occurs early on in the plot and ought to be a huge deal, but is instead promptly forgotten.

In fairness, Dark Sense does have a couple of nice ideas, but they’re few and far between. Its strongest element is the depiction of Simon’s visions, which are physically painful, violent and shocking, like severe epilepsy. There are also a couple of nice moments when he’s convincing the MI5 agents of his powers, but those flashes of humour are sadly absent from the rest of the script. In short, if you’ve got any sense, dark or otherwise, you’ll give this a miss.

* 1/5

Dark Sense screened at Arrow Video Frightfest on Saturday August 24th 2019.


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