A movie like “Dark Walker” usually prompts me to make mention of its lack of originality. But I won’t do that this time, mostly because I’m convinced director Danny Draven and his writers know they’re doing a formulaic Slasher film. Knowing this, all the conventions of the genre that appears in “Dark Walker” can be looked on as expected. Then again, where does one make the distinction between “clich’d for the sake of clich’” and just a general lack of originality?
Our would-be victims are 20-something actors playing very unconvincing teens working at a haunted house purposely built on top of an old murder site. We have the Fair Hair Lead (Kathleen Taylor), who also happens to be psychic and easily Traumatized; the Likeable and Trustworthy Male Hero (Michael Sage); the Bitch, who is rich and spoiled to the max; the Token Black Guy (Rick Irvin), who isn’t quite sassy enough to be the Sassy Black Guy (hence he’ll probably die); the Stoner, who is also the designated comic relief; and last but certainly not least, the Goth (Emily van Sonnenberg), who is a required character in all Slasher flicks post-millennium.
If you can’t figure out who is going to live and die by reading the above list, then you shouldn’t be watching “Dark Walker” in the first place. Actually, even if you like this sort of stuff, “Dark Walker” is still a pretty lackluster movie. Our killer is a large guy in a rubber suit who looks like a cross between Spawn and the Swamp Thing. Besides the fact that he’s not all that scary, his weapon of choice is a sickle. His method of dispatching of the kids is also not very inspiring — he sort of just appears out of nowhere, kills, and then runs off. Interestingly, he never seems to kill the haunted house’s customers, but only the employees. What a convenient way to keep the haunted house open because, you know, if customers started dying — I mean, that would be bad. Right?
Once you accept that “Dark Walker” is one big in-joke, then there’s some minor fun to be had. The Stoner, for instance, is cheesy when you first see him, but he turns out to be the only worthwhile character. In one scene, the mentally deficient fool shows up at school ready for a great school day — that is, until he’s informed that he graduated last year! “Dark Walker” is filled with such gags, including a redneck Sheriff with a fetish for mystery magazines. Not surprisingly, there’s an omnipresent character called the Caretaker who has all the answers about the murderous Darkwalker.
If there’s one gigantic flaw about “Dark Walker” that can’t be forgiven it’s that director Danny Draven refuses to let us see the actual murders. Oh sure, we get buckets of fake blood, but what about the actual kills? Instead we mostly see the Darkwalker grabbing a victim, raising his sickle, and then cut to a wall being splashed with blood. And even when we do see the victim in frame, we only hear the “killing”, but never actually see it. This is, in the words of my nephew, lame. This is no intellectual film, and it never tries to be, so why hide the very thing gore fiends will come for? Buckets of fake blood splashing across walls or being spit out by actors just don’t cut it.
“Dark Walker” works if you refuse to accept it as anything other than one big 80-minute goof on the Teen Slasher genre. Unfortunately it takes itself too seriously, especially toward the end. This somber turn only highlights the movie’s problems, most notably its afterthought — er, screenplay.
As a for instance: after two bodies have been located, and a third still missing, our group of teens discover that yet another buddy has gone missing. Alerted to this, one character makes this astounding comment, “[character] is a big girl, she can take care of herself.” Wait a minute. Are these kids in the same movie I’m watching?
Here’s an advice to future filmmakers of the Teen Slasher genre: Show us everything. “Solaris” can afford to force us to imagine what isn’t onscreen; but a movie with a guy in a mask running around with a sickle can’t.
Danny Draven (director) / Chuck Williams, Dan Jacobs (screenplay)
CAST: Kathleen Taylor …. Maggie
Michael Sage …. Josh
David DeWitt …. Robert Magee
Brenda Matthews …. Nancy Magee
Rick Irvin …. B.J.