Darkroom - Darkroom(Blu Ray/ DVD) [Vinegar Syndrome - 2019]Darkroom is an often pacey, fairly suspenseful & rewarding blend of US Giallo & slasher with some nicely sleazed edges. Appearing at the end of the 1980’s- when slasher films where somewhat out of flavour- here from Vinegar Syndrome is a new duel Blu Ray/DVD release of the film- severing up a nice bright new print, and a selection of interviews with the films actors.
Released in 1989 Darkroom was jointly directed by Terrence O'Hara & Nico Mastorakis- who was unaccredited. O’Hara directed only a few films early on in his career, but is largely known for work on TV- directing episodes of The X-Files, Angel, CSI & Smallville. Mastorakis has more of grounding in horror/ exploitation film making- directing the likes of 1970’s euro horror sleaze classic Island Of Death, & 80’s Slasher/ action crossbreed The Zero Boys- as well as producing a fare few 80's B horror movies. So I’m guessing there’s more of Mastorakis, than O'Hara in Darkroom’s make-up, though in-between the stalking, sleaze & slashing- we do get fairly soapy acting- that moves between bland-to- amusingly overacted.
The film focuses in on Janet (Jill Pierce) who is returning to her family country home which nestles in the orange groves of Californian. Fairly soon her impressively mulleted boyfriend & professional photographer Steve appears (Jeffrey Alan Arbaugh)- and someone starts killing her family, and their friends. The killer has a penchant to take photos of his victims before killing them- and this leads into the mystery of who the killer is-is it Steve?, the local young hermit who lives in a tin shed by the river?, or is it one of the families decidedly shifty cousins?.
The film literally kicks in straight away with the killer stalking action; as we see him secretly photographing a young women watering her garden. Fairly soon the killer is put on a yellow mac suit, latex gloves, and tapping his legs & hands into the suit before going onto attack the women, then her partner- with blood spurting & splashing. From here on we get a good selection of unsettling stalking scenes, with the killer's almost fetishistic playing with his camera lens & putting on latex gloves as he selects one victim after another. There’s not a ton of creative or prolonged murders really, and only fleeting blood- what the focus is here is the unsettling stalking, leering flashbacks to a woman in underwear tired to a bed, and of course who the killer is. In-between this we get fairly inane & cheesy romantic interactions between Janet & Steve, amusing family bickering, and the appearance of a rather ineffective local sheriff. On the whole, I found Darkroom an enjoyable & often fairly tense blend of slasher & Giallo- sure a bit more blood & gore would have been nice, but really many slashers were often disappointing in this department; especially after they were cut back by either the BBFC or MPAA in the 1980s.
As we’ve come to expect from Vinegar Syndrome the new 4k scan of the film looks very nice- having a really crisp & balanced quality, with a nice amount of constast & shadow in the brighter daylight moments, and well-balanced clarity in the more gloomy inside shots. Extras wise we get two stand-alone interviews- one with male lead Jeffrey Alan Arbaugh, and the other with fellow male lead Aarin Teich. These each last between ten & fifteen a piece, and see each actor discussing first how they got into B moviemaking, before going on to discuss their time on Darkroom- both interviews give a nice insight into being a young actor in the 80’s coming to LA- of the two I’d say Teich comes off the best, really putting across a warm & un-pretentious air. We also get an image gallery and trailer that has a great tag-line of “We dare you to walk in & see what develops!”.
If you enjoyed the slight more sleazed & fetish slasher leanings of another relatively recent vinegar Syndrome release from the 80’s Blood Harvest- I think you’ll enjoy Darkroom- sure it’s not as gory & sleaze as said film, but the creeping stalking elements are done well, and I was really left guessing until the reveal who the killer was. All in all another classy release from VS.Roger Batty