Cleo Callahan might not look like a vigilante, but she has the right skills.
She is crack sharpshooter, particularly with a rifle-scope. Arguably, her
investigative talents are somewhat subpar, but in such a small provincial village
she is bound to find her sister’s killer sooner or later. However, the guilty
party is closer than she could imagine in Patrick Ryan’s moody revenge drama Darkness on the Edge of Town (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival.
the death of their parents, Callahan’s relationship with her older sister
Aishling has been strained. She now lives with Foster parents, while Aishling
lives the wild life—or at least she was. Although we see full well who the
killer is, it feels like the sort of thing that should be held close to the
vest. Regardless, Cleo Callahan soon sets out to even the score, presuming the
murderer is one of the dodgy characters in her sister’s social circle.
they are innocent, but it is clearly implied they did sister Aishling wrong in
more conventional ways, so there is no need to feel sympathy for their sorry
hides. However, it is a different story when suspicion falls on Virgil O’Riley,
the brother of her profoundly troubled best friend Robin.
tone of Darkness is so dark, it is
like Milton’s darkness visible. You do not want to know what goes on behind
closed doors because it is sure to be awful. This is not a wish fulfillment vigilante
movie like the later Death Wish films.
It is scrupulously serious, even though there is a good deal of blood down the
stretch. At times, Ryan plays with the themes and visual language of the
western genre, but it is really more closely akin to a film like Heavenly Creatures, but executed in a
drastically more naturalistic style.
that as it may, Darkness heralds the
arrival of Emma Willis as a major new screen talent to watch. Her performance
as Robin O’Riley is truly harrowing, riveting, and downright scary. It is bad
luck for Emma Eliza Regan, whose intense slow-burning work as Callahan is
likely to be overlooked, even though it is excellent as well.
It is hard to classify Darkness as a thriller, because of its deliberate pacing and
thoroughly realized sense of hardscrabble place. Still, this film has grit in
abundance. Definitely recommended for patrons of Irish cinema and violent
contemporary tragedies in general, Darkness
on the Edge of Town screens again tomorrow (1/28) at Treasure Mountain Inn,
as part of this year’s Slamdance.
Labels: Irish Cinema, Slamdance '15, Vigilante Films