STUDIO: Freestyle
MSRP: $24.99
Director commentary
Alternate ending

The Pitch

“It’s Straw Dogs meets Misery, sprinkled with Cronenberg flavoring!”

The Humans

Kate Greenhouse, Aidan Devine, other Canadians

The Nutshell

Sam Goodman (Greenhouse) is a psychiatrist for the criminally insane. She’s also afflicted with an inoperable brain tumor that, after remaining dormant for some time, has suddenly begun to grow again. Traveling to her family’s secluded cabin to interrupt her writer husband’s working weekend with the bad news, she initially suspects him of having an affair there with his assistant… who also happens to be Sam’s sister. But before she can chew that unsavory morsel, psychotic former patient Harlan Pyne (Devine) unexpectedly arrives to shatter the already broken tranquility into jagged shards. Along with his accomplice, Harlan tortures Sam and her hubby and sibling through a series of mental and physical games as a form of payback for subjecting him to an experimental treatment — the very same medication recently altering not only Sam’s judgment, but her perceptions as well.

"I dunno, I’ve never grilled the Boogens before, but if you say they’re tasty…"

The Package

The official release includes a filmmaker commentary and alternate ending, but they weren’t included on the advance screener… which is unfortunate, as I’d be interested in hearing the director and/or writer’s take on where the story ultimately goes (I’ve heard the details of the deleted ending, and they’re better off with the version in the final cut). But the widescreen transfer looks and sounds excellent, and though the cover pic may be a hackneyed genre image, in this case it’s appropriate — that lumberjack instrument is one of the most important props in the film (the pliers take top prize, but probably wouldn’t look quite as marketable on the DVD).

The Lowdown

It may not feature anyone you’ve ever seen or heard of before, but festival fave The Dark Hours is a thoroughly gripping and often downright nasty little thriller. Canadian director Paul Fox and scribe Wil Zmak have transformed their meager budget into a lean and disturbing psychological terror tale that broaches questions of morality and doctor’s ethics, dabbles in dirty secrets and gruesome Cronenbergian bodily mutilation, and eventually delves headfirst into distorted reality.

"For the last time, it’s ask. A…S…K!"

Fox uses the sparse, claustrophobic location to squeeze some wonderfully unnerving tension out of an occasionally abstruse and stilted slow-burning mindpunch of a script. The cast turns in solid work — during the grim fireside games, Devine fills his sex offender sociopath with as much enigma as concentrated menace, and Greenhouse is particularly exceptional as Sam deals with the surreal situation the same way she handles her disease and her patients: coldly and clinically.

I guess Canada’s good for a few things after all. Call off the attack, they can stay. For the moment.

7.8 out of 10