19 October 2009

6WH: October 19th

Dark Country (2009) directed by Thomas Jane
Sometimes it seems like first time directors are so excited to be directing a film that they throw every film trick they can think of into their movie. Canted angles, chiaroscuro lighting, colored lighting, "creative" scene transitions, racking focus, tons close-ups on inanimate objects... you can see their enthusiasm in every frame. All of this excitement, though kind of fun to observe, can make the movie feel visually cluttered. This is especially true for the beginning section of this film. You can just about picture Jane talking to his DP, trying to figure out a non-standard shot for each scene.

Once the characters get out onto the desert road at night, things calm down a little. Not completely, however. It looks like the desert scenes were shot using green screen. Everything seems to have a black border around it, separating it from the background, kind of like a cartoon. One the one hand, it makes the movie look a bit cheap. On the other hand, it's actually kind of surreal. This look seems to work for a movie about weird things happening while driving through the desert at night. The closest comparison I can think of is if Sin City were shot in color and never cut to those stark no gray-tone shots.

Storywise, this is essentially a Twilight Zone / Night Gallery episode stretched out to ninety minutes. A couple finds a badly injured man on a desert highway at night. He gets a little nutty and tries to choke the husband. The husband kills him with a rock and the couple bury him in the middle of the desert. Some craziness ensues, including Ron Perlman as a police officer. Turns out, the injured man was really the husband and there's either some kind of time looping going on, or we're witnessing a psychological break on the part of the main character. Actually, that's not too unlike Lost Highway in either regard.

Anyway, as far as these type of things go, I liked it, but Bill Paxton got you beat, buddy. (7/10)