31st Aug2018

Pass Horror Notes: ‘Darkness Reigns’ Review

by Aaron Shakespeare



Stars: Casper Van Dien, Zachary Mooren, Linara Washington, Peter Mayer, Ford Fanter, Jennifer Wenger, James Packard, Aerial Nicole, Matt Connor, Vanessa Leinani, Megan Goldthrite, Timeka Little | Written and Directed by Andrew P. Jones

Name: Darkness Reigns
Age: 2018
Appearance: Found footage horror featuring some surprisingly effective gory flourishes, a few creepy moments and an ageless Casper Van Dien (he of Starship Troopers).

Darkness Reigns. Demon Pains.

Darkness Reigns. Demon Pains.

Not another bloody found footage horror?

Now, hang about. This one isn’t too bad. For a start, it has a plot and it doesn’t look as if it was filmed on a dodgy iPhone by a group of hysterical students. And without going into spoiler territory, what starts off with the usual found footage trope of ‘the film you are about to see is real’, turns into a story that is a little more imaginative and nightmarish than your usual ‘let’s scream and shake the camera about’ approach that blights these films.

Did you mention a plot?

Well, the film starts off with a conventionally filmed segment at a red carpet premiere to provide context to the found footage bit. Basically, we’re watching a behind the scenes documentary about the making of Defanatus Soul (the film’s original title, apparently), a horror film made on location in a real haunted hotel. Daniel, (a ghostly looking Zachary Mooren) informs us that the footage is real, and a that a lot of people died. Cue found footage…


Stop being a child. We begin by meeting various characters on the film set, such as Sidney the medium (a husky-voiced Peter Mayer) who provides the exposition. Sidney is a wonderfully overacted character. He knows all about ghosties whilst “keeping it real man”


Behave! In a nice meta-twist (a phrase I have always wanted to use!), Casper Van Dien plays an exaggerated version of himself as the star of Defanatus Soul. A prima donna actor who talks pretentiously about the script and announces that he is 22 years sober when invited out for cocktails. Casper plays himself up to such an extent that I thought the film was more of a Spinal Tap style spoof than a straight horror film. Anyway, all doubts are thrown out of the window around the 30-minute mark when a demon crashes the filming and shit gets real.

How does “shit” get real?

You get eviscerations, flies pouring from the mouth, ghouls appearing in the mirror, eyeless demons… the works. Darkness Reigns wins by luring you in with a false sense of security following the usual found footage conventions and then suddenly goes all Silent Hill on your ass. High Five to Writer/Director Andrew P. Jones for making the film look as good as it did.

A haunted hotel, eyeless demons, Casper Van Dien. What’s not to like?

I guess if I am going to moan, there are few plot holes and the script does occasionally fall into the repetitive ‘what are we going to do’, ‘we need to work together’ dialogue that often happens in a story where characters are trapped. But otherwise, it’s all good gut-spilling fun.

Do say: “This is as behind the scenes as it gets”.

Don’t say: Casper Van Dorian Gray.


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