March 3, 2020 The Dark Red (Movie Review)
Can you trust a schizophrenic young woman who believes she has the power of telepathy? Hear her story and then decide for yourself when you step into the world of the new Horror offering The Dark Red. Dark Sky Films deliver this psychological quagmire to select theaters and Digital on Friday, March 6th, 2020.
Starring the phenomenal talents of April Billingsley (Last Vegas 2013, The Walking Dead series) and Kelsey Scott (12 Years a Slave 2013, How to Get Away with Murder series), The Dark Red is the tale of Sybil Warren (Billingsley), a schizophrenic woman who claims that her son was stolen from her womb. When she is admitted to a psychiatric hospital and placed under the care of kindly Dr. Deluce (Scott), the two women will have to work through the traumatic past in order to resolve Sybil’s current issues. Is she mentally ill and imagining a supernatural plot to steal her child, or is she truly the victim of a bloodthirsty cult?
Clocking in at 101 minutes, The Dark Red was directed by Dan Bush (The Signal 2007, The Vault 2017) who co-wrote the film with Conal Byrne (The Reconstruction of William Zero 2014, The Vault 2017). It also features the acting talents of Rhoda Griffis (The Blind Side 2009, Parental Guidance 2012), John Curran (The Conspirator 2012, Captain America: Civil War 2016), Bernard Setaro Clark (Darkest Adversary short 2004, Germ 2013), Jill Jane Clements (Free State of Jones 2016, The Walking Dead series), the precious little Clementine June and James Boone Sengstack, co-writer Byrne, and more.
Billed as Horror, The Dark Red is a blend of both Supernatural and Psychological Thrillers. With films that dabble in the occult, it would be hard to say that there’s not a drop of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) inside the screenplay’s DNA, along with some slight corollaries to, say, the Olivia Wilde-fueled A Vigilante (2019). Sitting somewhere in between the pair, and with heavy psychological elements, this is the tale of a young woman who believes that she has the superhuman ability to read most people’s minds and that, in a cult-led conspiracy, her child has been stolen straight from her womb. What the viewer, and Dr. Deluce, must deduce is whether or not to believe Sybil.
In the role that takes its name from the famous 1973 book of the same name by Flora Rheta Schreiber, Billingsley’s Sybil is a highly sympathetic character. In fact, it will be hard for any audience members to disbelieve the passionate woman, as Billingsley delivers the role with the utmost of subtle finesse. Despite having early childhood trauma on top of her current issues, her Sybil refuses to be broken and we want to champion her fight to reclaim her kidnapped child. In her own way, she does embody her namesake: though not suffering from dissociative identity disorder, she is a woman who is both a victim of her trauma and a vigilante for love, coexisting in the same body.
Alongside Billingsley, Scott also provides an exceptional performance. Believable in her role, she is firm in her aim to aid her mentally ill patient, no nonsense, and yet there’s a softer side to Dr. Deluce that shines through in Scott’s eyes. She is the psychiatrist that a patient wants to discover: stern enough to get to the bottom of her patient’s great mystery, and yet kind enough to understand that Sybil needs a certain level of empathy if they are to make any great strides in her treatment. Scott is exemplary in the role, and provides the springboard for much of Billingsley’s character development. Not to be overlooked, while Clark is not given the proper screen time to truly develop his character, he shines in the moments that he is provided, delivering an excellent performance as Dr. Morales.
There’s not a lot of flash to The Dark Red. Rather, the film relies on an intriguing, cross-genre premise that blends elements of the occult, supernatural, and psychology to hold its viewers’ attention throughout its duration. Propelled by its phenomenal cast, this is a story that weighs heavily on its psychological foundation, not blood and guts, as it asks viewers to make a choice whether or not to trust its main character. Your level of trust will decide the amount of thrills that you actually take from the experience, but shocking or not, it’s an enjoyable ride that is worth taking. For this, Cryptic Rock gives The Dark Red 4 of 5 stars.