(a.k.a. UNDER SURVEILLANCE)
Justin (Eric Conley) moves in with his dad, ex-cop-turned-detective Kurt (David H Rigg), after living with his pill-popping mother for the last five years.
Upon arriving at his father's house, Justin receives a call from his mother begging him not to stay there, warning that he is in danger if he does so. But Justin is tired of his mother's ways and is looking forward to settling back into life in the town he grew up in. His father allots a room to Justin, and advises that their home has been converted to accommodate three apartments - all of which are occupied with tenants.
Justin pays a visit to old friend Scott (Fred DeReau) and meets his arrogant room-mate Rick (writer- director David Campfield), who is the opposite of devout Christian Justin - he sells beer at extortionate rates to teenagers, promises snuff films to willing customers etc.
Despite his disapproval of Rick's "entrepreneur" leanings, Justin reluctantly accepts his help when a mysterious redhead called Kayla (Alexandra Eitel) first stalks Justin, then is murdered outside his home.
Kurt is convinced a group of local Satanists known the Black Circle killed Kayla, but Justin believes one of his cagey neighbours is responsible. Unable to persuade Kurt that the teenagers he's helped arrest are not responsible for the murder, Justin teams up with Scott and Rick to install hidden cameras into each apartment and monitor his suspects' movements.
Via the black-and-white monitor screens that Rick sets up in Scott's van outside Kurt's home, we meet the neighbours: struggling actor Vincent (Mark Love) and his down-trodden German girlfriend Larisa (Sarah Baker Bahr); hooker Heidi (Felissa Rose) and her invalid sister, the weird Sonja (Brenda Abbandandolo); overweight pervert Bob (Chris Cooke).
Rick comes up with the idea of slipping a note under the door of each suspect, announcing "I know what you did to Kayla Stark" - then watching for their reactions on the camera. Trouble is, they all react suspiciously!
But it all seems to have been a futile (if at times enlightening) task when Kurt announces that the teenage punks have confessed to being members of the Black Circle, and if killing Kayla.
But where Justin, Rick and Scott really wrong all along?
DARK CHAMBER is an above-average thriller that deserves the comparisons to Hitchcock that it has attracted on other sites. Of course, it lacks the finesse of the master and never achieves the level of tension delivered by grade A thrillers. But, for a first-time director working with a small budget and a largely unknown cast, this is very promising stuff.
The Hitchcockian comparisons come by way of the focus on the film's "whodunit" plotting and well fleshed-out characters, as well as moments of wry morbid humour, the theme of spying on your suspects and the neat - if familiar - trick of a locked door that leads to the answer to the mystery.
The acting is generally superb, the enthusiastic cast clearly relishing Campfield's intelligent script. It's great to see realistic dialogue and believable, likeable characters that work in a three-dimensional way - such things are all too rare in this field these days.
The mystery element works well (although the killer's identity was hardly revelatory) and Campfield controls the film's pacing well enough to ensure the suspense grows as it should.
Largely managing to avoid cliché, DARK CHAMBER is a quietly satisfying thriller with the occasional foray into horror territory.
Shock-O-Rama's disc is a pretty stacked affair.
The film is presented uncut in a non-enhanced 1.66:1 transfer. Colours are slightly washed-out and blacks are not as strong as they should have been, given that a lot of the film is shot in the dark. But overall any imperfections in the transfer are not too distracting.
The English 2.0 audio is a solid affair. The 5.1 mix that is advertised on the back cover is not present.
Although there's no scene-selection menu, the film can be navigated through by way of 17 chapters.
Extras are plentiful indeed:
First up is a good if somewhat scholarly commentary track from Campfield. He speaks fluently and understandably proudly throughout, pointing out his favourite scenes and the ones that he's honest enough to admit didn't work so well. His "thank you" list at the end is a little Oscar-worthy, though …
A second commentary track from select cast members is intercut with alternate music tracks and isolated score. It's an odd mix-and-match job, but works as a curiosity piece. Both commentary tracks feature their share of website plugs, I noticed!
The Story Behind Dark Chamber is a 17-minute featurette wherein Campfield and various cast/crew members discuss how the production evolved. Some of this is candid, video diary-style footage - but there's also snippets from an interview with Campfield on a cable TV show which are interesting.
On The Set offers 8 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, while Turning One Room Into Four is a 4-minute featurette that sees Campfield explaining how they managed to film 70% of his movie in a single location.
Interviews with actresses Raine Brown, Desiree Gould and Felissa Rose follow.
Inside The Black Circle is an intriguing if too-short documentary presented by Russ Camarda, which investigates the true-life "Say you love Satan" killing that inspired the film. It's the tale of devil-worshipping, AC/DC loving, beer-swilling psycho Ricky Kasso, who was also the inspiration for Jim Van Bebber's MY SWEET SATAN and Joe Coleman's WHERE EVIL DWELLS.
A 4-minute blooper reel is next, followed closely by 12 minutes of alternate scenes, introduced by Campfield.
Next is a music promo video for the track "Addiction" by Blue Moon Haven, which appears in the film. Essentially this involves pole-dancing, middle-aged rockers and a watered-down Alice In Chains riff. Pretty funny stuff - although I doubt that the humour is intentional …
Finally, we have trailers for 8 Shock-O-Rama titles, including DARK CHAMBER.
Eschewing gore in favour of character and plot, DARK CHAMBER is a very welcome breath of fresh air - if you buy only one SHOCK-O-RAMA title, chances are this is the one to go for.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Shock-O-Rama Cinema|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|