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DARK CHAMBER (2006)
Published by David Carter on 2008/2/10 (4116 reads)
Directed by Dave Campfield
Review by David Carter
Released by Shock-O-Rama Cinema
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: Rated R
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 5.1 Dolby Digital Stereo English
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: No
Special Features: two commentary tracks, three interviews, three documentaries, the story behind the film short, bloopers, music video, alternate scenes
Trailer Online: Yes
Suspense is a narrative device used by a variety of film genres. Dramatic tension can pop up anywhere from horror to comedies, adding a layer of anticipation to the story as the audience hopes for the positive and dreads the negative potential outcomes to the action. Suspense is also considered to be its own genre of cinema, lending its name to a group of films that use the device as their most defining characteristic. “Suspense films” usually overlap into another genre but their reliance on tense situations overshadows their other elements. Case in point: Shock-O-Rama’s latest release DARK CHAMBER. First-time filmmaker Dave Campfield’s film appears to be horror at first glance, but in actuality it is a tightly scripted thriller that is a prime example of the suspense genre.
Against his mother’s wishes, Justin moves out of her house to live with his hard-nosed policeman father. His father’s house will allow him to have more freedom to go to college as well as spend more time with friends. The house has changed greatly since he lived there last; his father renovated the unused rooms into three apartments that are lived in by a couple of unsavory characters. On his first day there Justin meets a girl named Kayla waiting across the street and asks her to hang out. She takes him up on his offer, but Kayla’s wild ways scare off the deeply moral Justin. He tries to distance himself from her but she continually calls him and stares through his windows. Her stalking meets a tragic end when Justin goes out to investigate a noise in the middle of the night only to find Kayla’s dead body before being knocked unconscious by two masked men. His father tells him that they are members of the “Black Circle” Satanic cult who are responsible for several recent murders. Justin is very disturbed by her murder and after discussing it with his friend Scott, Scott’s abrasive roommate Rick comes up with an idea that appeals to Justin’s curiosity. The three young men believe that Kayla’s killer is likely living in the house, so Rick installs surveillance cameras in the three apartments. Justin, Scott, and Rick monitor the inhabitants from a van across the street and find that the house contains a wealth of secrets and potential suspects.
DARK CHAMBER is a both an excellently realized thriller and a mammoth achievement for debut writer/director Dave Campfield. The events in the film are loosely based on the “Say You Love Satan Murder” and the action takes place (both literally and story-line wise) a few blocks away from where that crime was committed. Yet as previously stated, DARK CHAMBER is not a horror film. It is more of a modern take on Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW and the noir-ish concept of attempting to solve a crime the police have given up on. Campfield has woven the stated intent of the boys to find Kayla’s killer with unspoken attraction of voyeurism. Clearly the boys become addicted to spying on the tenants, relishing in viewing the more prurient moments of their lives. Campfield masterfully introduces a sharply barbed social criticism into the context of a well-plotted suspense tale without compromising the impact of either element. Rick, played by the director, compiles the boys’ footage into a mondo/shockumentary video with intent to sell, noting that the more violence and sex in the film, the more he’ll be able to charge. Justin (acting as the film’s moral center) reminds him that a real murder has taken place; something that the characters in the film had lost sight of by that point. This critique of society’s fascination with the darker aspects of reality without regard to their moral ramifications plays a role in the events of the film and mirrors the film’s ultimate examination of the nature of justice.
Shock-O-Rama, like all of the Pop Cinema labels, puts out an excellent DVD. DARK CHAMBER comes with an attractive print of the film and a surprisingly robust audio presentation. The bonus features are both too numerous and well done to single any one out for attention. Campfield directs a short that goes into the details behind the murder that serves as an inspiration/plot-point for DARK CHAMBER that is worth a look for true-crime fans. Each of the three scream queens in the film gives a separate interview where they discuss not only this film, but their better-known films as well.
Brilliantly written and acted, DARK CHAMBER is in position to be one of the best indie DVD releases of the year even at this early time. Dave Campfield understands how to make a good film, something evident both in the success of this film and through the interviews included on the DVD. Look for more good things from him in the future, but this excellent film will more than satisfy you for the time being.
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