The Dark Within (2019) Review

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The Dark Within, directed by David Ryan Keith, revolves around a disturbed man with unknown psychic abilities. Marcus Blaine (Paul Flannery) tries to uncover the mystery pertaining to the disappearance of his parent. He must simultaneously battle his own demons.

Keith, having worked on such productions as Evil in the Hills, Attack of the Herbals and The Redwood Massacre as writer and director, collaborated with Flannery on writing the screenplay for The Dark Within. The narrative we see unfold in the 88-minute-long horror film is a serious mind trip.

The Dark Within
Image Credit: IMDb.com

The principal character’s visions are disturbingly dark. The voices the character hears in his head make him a danger to himself and others.

The artwork Marcus creates is bold, imaginative and sinisterly demonic. By pouring his emotions into the images he presences on canvas, Marcus has an outlet for the darkest parts of his mind. We find this creative outlet, as the movie progresses, will not be enough to control the darkness within him. Many of the images seen in this production are evocative of The Redwood Massacre and Ghosts of Darkness.

The Dark Within
Screen Capture: Stephanie Lynn Styles as Dr Jillian Norton in The Dark Within.

Dr Jillian Norton (Stephanie Lynn Styles) work closely with Marcus to unravel his deepest darkest mysteries. The doctor suggests a visit to his parent’s remote woodland cabin. Norton seems to think visiting the cabin will aid her patient better understand his abilities. Further, returning to the cabin might see Marcus’ memories resurface. In arguing there is nothing for him to worry about, the doctor believes Marcus will be safe at the cabin.

The Dark Within
Screen Capture: Paul Flannery as Marcus Blaine in The Dark Within.

In a wooden box hidden in a stone wall, Marcus finds a vial containing a green bio-fluorescent substance which is reminiscent of something seen in a recent episode of the Netflix original series Stranger Things. If you have been watching the series, there is a good chance you’ll know what I am referencing.

When Marcus takes the cap of the vial and smells the substance, he has a memory of his father giving him something to drink. “Down the hatch,” Andrew Blaine (Niko Foster) told his son in the memory. Consequently, because of this memory, Marcus is influenced to drink the liquid. That vial could have been in the box for years. What possesses someone to do such a thing?

Moments after drinking the liquid, Marcus is puking up blood and collapses onto the floor. When he awakens, we find the vial is full. Did Marcus drink the liquid? We saw him drink something.

On a cassette Marcus found in the cabin, his father made recordings pertaining to his experiments. His remarks are engaging and add depth to the film’s narrative.

Approximately halfway through the film, Sarah Price (Kendra Carelli) shows up at the cabin. In the woods, Marcus sees a demonic presence within Sarah. He consequently leaves her in the woods. When Marcus arrives back at the cabin, Sarah is there. How did she make it back to the cabin so quickly? As we progress through the film, there are more and more questions, but there are no answers until the end.

The Dark Within
Screen Capture: Paul Flannery and Kendra Carelli as Marcus Blaine and Sarah Price, respectively, in The Dark Within.

Did Marcus stab Sarah? Is Sarah at the cabin with Marcus? One moment Sarah is in the cabin, the next moment she is nowhere to be seen. Because very little about this film feels real, we consequently need to ask if Marcus actually slit his own throat.

The Dark Within
Screen Capture: Paul Flannery as Marcus Blaine in The Dark Within.

Much of the film revolves around tense and fearful moments. Is Marcus capable of accepting the reality he exists in? Is the film leading us to walk up the metaphorical garden path? By fooling us to believe what we are seeing on the screen is happening, the reality of the film is a complete misdirection. Nothing is what it seems. Everything about this film screams misdirection. The final scene, in which we hear Norton telling Marcus to open his eyes, reveals everything was a figment of his imagination.