Ring of Darkness (2004) Movie Review

David DeCoteau, the director of the low-budget, cheapie “Ring of Darkness”, is gay and proud of it. And the fact that DeCoteau is unapologetically gay means his movies are filled with hunky young men with rock hard bodies who also like getting naked — or at least semi-naked. None of this is meant to be an indictment against DeCoteau, since heterosexual directors have been populating their low-budget, cheapie B-movies with young, busty ladies with zero body fat well before DeCoteau got into the game. In any case, you should keep this little factoid in mind as you watch “Ring of Darkness”, otherwise you’ll be hardpressed to figure out why everyone keeps pulling up their shirts to show us their six-packs.

Our little adventure opens with the lead singer of a celebrated boy band getting bumped off in the middle of the night while he’s fleeing the group’s castle/island/whatchamacallit. In this case, “celebrated” means that when the boy band goes out in public to audition for a new lead singer in some poor guy’s parking lot, only about a dozen screaming girls bother to show up even though it’s, you know, very public, and these guys are supposedly the most famous boy band in the world. I’m pretty sure ‘Nsync and Backstreet Boys usually get a lot more attention than this when they’re out in public, but I digress.

Three winners are chosen out of the audition process, including Shawn (Coltin Scott), a rebel rocker (or at least a really serious singer who keeps saying he’s a serious singer in case, you know, we forget in-between the 2 or 3 seconds he doesn’t remind us he’s a serious singer) who has no interest in joining a boy band. Alas, ol Shawn is attached to girlfriend Stacy (“American Idol” reject Ryan Starr, showing zero acting ability), who encourages him to try out anyway. Lo and behold, and despite lip-syncing to the same musical track as everyone else at the audition, Shawn gets picked. As a result, the three finalists get sent over to the boy band’s island/compound/whatever, which is run by genre veteran Adrienne Barbeau, looking more gaunt, skeletal, and freakish than usual.

Without a doubt, “Ring of Darkness” is a terrible film, with only a few cursory laughs to be had, all of them at the expense of the film’s general idiocy. The whole boy band parody works for about a half minute, until it runs dry and you wonder why that guy in the band has just flashed you his perfect six-pack abs about 50 times in the space of 5 milliseconds. While editing the film, DeCoteau must have realized he didn’t have nearly enough footage, and that his second unit directors didn’t shoot enough pointless scenes of the ocean lapping on the beach or random shots of the sunset or those two nondescript and busty gals frolicking in the pool. As a result, the film, only 75-minutes of actual screentime, is padded with endless scenes of the boy band’s music video looped ad nauseaum.

The script, which amazingly took three (count’em, three!) people to write, is hilarious in its ability to be absurd and keep a straight face. At one point, while the boys are judging what amounts to the dancing ability of the three finalists on their mansion/island compound, Adrienne Barbeau remarks, “Shawn is the best singer I’ve ever seen”. To which I have to ask, “How can you tell, Adrienne? Especially since they were all lip-syncing the first time we saw them — and to the same song/voice!” It’s little gold nuggets like that that makes “Darkness” worthwhile.

Which, if you were wondering, I’m not saying it is — worthwhile, that is. But, just in case your girlfriend or (ahem) boyfriend forces you watch this movie, having been lured to the film by Ryan Starr’s much ballyhooed appearance, then you’ll at least be able to amuse yourself by snickering at some of the film’s more absurd dialogue. Speaking of which, Ryan Starr is so bad it’s not even worth pointing out that she has no acting talent to speak of. And No, in case you were wondering, Starr never once comes close to shedding any article of clothing. Isn’t this the woman who spent her entire “American Idol” ordeal with barely any clothes on, flashing every little inch of flesh she could? I feel cheated and betrayed.

But there are some bright spots to be had for the adventurous (or is the more correct phrase, “duped”?) viewer. As mentioned, the film works somewhat as a parody on boy bands, but even so, a single 22-minute episode of the animated “South Park” packed in more laughs than “Ring of Darkness'” entire 75 minutes. And Coltin Scott, as rebel rock’n’roller turned boy band contestant, is actually quite good. In fact, the guy looks practically brilliant next to the other gym rats — er, I mean, actors — playing the boy band and the other two contestants.

Which leads me to this observation: I wonder how long it took Scott to realize he was in a turkey, and that the only way to abandon the project was to sneak out of his hotel in the dead of night, and make a run for it? That thought led me to this thought: I wonder how long it took DeCoteau’s army of black briefs wearing hard-bodied young men to capture Scott and bring him back to the set? It’s these kinds of intriguing questions that “Ring of Darkness” forces me to ask that keeps me coming back for more. Thank you, David DeCoteau.

David DeCoteau (director) / Ryan Carrassi, Michael Gingold, Matthew Jason Walsh (screenplay)
CAST: Adrienne Barbeau …. Alex
Eric Dearborn …. Max
Jeremy Jackson …. Xavier
Coltin Scott …. Shawn
Ryan Starr …. Stacy

Buy Ring of Darkness on DVD