Plot: Sal Devito (J.J. Barry) is a New Yorker at heart, used to the urban sprawl and fast paced life the big city offers, but he has relocated to rural Vermont, where he has never felt at home. As if the culture shock wasn’t enough, he was also involved in a tragic car accident, one which claimed the life of a young local girl. Already plagued with guilt, Sal is tormented by the girl’s grandfather, who seems intent on vengeance and that isn’t the only ominous presence around. Sal is certain he has seen a mysterious, hooded figure looming around, though his rampant paranoia could explain that, as his mind has started to unravel. Always looking over his shoulder, Sal also experiences strange pains and episodes, as if some kind of outside force is tearing him apart from the inside out, so he reaches out for help. He hopes the local medium Adrianna (Kim Hunter) can help him figure out if there’s some kind of hex on him, but even if he learns the truth, can he stop the madness?
Entertainment Value: Dark August is a movie that takes slow burn to a new level, as it slowly unfurls the narrative at a deliberate pace, never showing us too much, then just comes to an end. This might sound like criticism, but in truth, the movie dug itself under my skin and despite the glacial pace and sudden conclusion, I found the movie to be an effective chiller. The narrative seems simple enough, but the film is driven by an eerie, unsettling atmosphere that is ever present, especially in scenes where Sal interacts with the locals. His paranoia and unease are well founded, given how the mood is in those sequences, which creates a palpable sense of inevitable dread, as we wait to see what darkness awaits. I can see how some would be bored to tears or even actively dislike this approach, but I think Dark August pulls it off and that is no small task. The cast is fine and turns in mostly realistic performances, save J.J. Barry who gives us a soap opera style, all over the place effort. This makes sense here however, as the dude is losing his mind and possibly under the influence of supernatural forces, so he should act like a lunatic at times. If you like slow burn, offbeat regional horror, Dark August is a unique one and more than deserves a chance.
This movie has some sex scenes and they’re very grounded, so this isn’t about glamour or staged eroticism. No, this is middle aged people enjoying each other’s bodies, sometimes with odd gyrations and such to add to the eroticism. There is some light nakedness, but not much and the sex isn’t graphic by any means. A little on the strange side, yes but graphic, no. There is also some light violence, but it is sparse and the blood quotient here is on the lower end. The finale has some sparks of crimson, but this is driven by mood and atmosphere, not kills and violence. So while gore is indeed wonderful, it makes sense in this case to scale back on the red stuff. The dialogue in Dark August isn’t a treasure trove of wild lines, since the tone is rather dreary and serious, but some fun stuff creeps in. As I mentioned before, J.J. Barry is dialed up here at times and his over the top antics provide some points in this department. A good mental breakdown is a goldmine for outlandish words and actions, so while the flow is limited, there is some memorable dialogue in this one. The film’s off putting atmosphere and Barry’s often wild performance earn a little on the insanity meter, but this is much more measured than it is out of control.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: Dark August hits Blu-ray with a new 2k restoration, sourced from the original camera negative as part of Arrow Video’s American Horror Project: Volume Two. This is a remarkable visual presentation, as the movie looks so clean and refined, while the natural grain and film texture are untouched. So yes, the movie has a grit to the visuals, but that is inherent and as such, not grounds for criticism. A little rough perhaps, but that is unavoidable in cases like Dark August and while darker scenes suffer a little, this is a massive upgrade for fans to bask in. The extras include director Martin Goldman’s audio commentary track, new interviews with Goldman and producer Marianne Kanter, and two appreciation pieces from film related authors.
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