J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dark Signal: Live and Local on Radio JAB

This is the last night of live and local radio in a remote, English-speaking corner of Wales. Radio JAB (dig that groovy call sign) was already scheduled to convert to a national network format, but the final night of the Laurie Wolf show is still likely to give the UK’s FCC a cow. There will be psychic connections, spectral voices, and mass murder broadcast live and direct in Edward Evers-Swindell’s Dark Signal (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

For several years, the good residents of this Welsh district have been terrorized by the Wedlock Killer, who snips off the ring finger of his victims, wedding band and all. We will see him methodically dispatch Sarah Keller in her far too isolated farm house. Rather bafflingly, we will return shortly thereafter with Kate Komisarczyk and her dodgy boyfriend. For reasons that are not immediately clear, he is convinced there is a small fortune stashed in the house. She is not the criminal type, but she desperately needs money to care for her wheelchair-bound son, so Komisarczyk will be the lookout—and there will be plenty to lookout for.

Simultaneously, Wolf is starting her final show and she is packing plenty of bad attitude. She is even less thrilled when she learns her technician Ben Evans has booked the book-hawking psychic Carla Zaza as her final guest. However, things start to get interesting when Zaza and Evans start picking up some sort of ghostly communication, apparently from one of the Wedlock Killer’s victims.

Pontypool remains the ultimate when it comes to horror movies set in radio stations, but Evers-Swindell does not lack for ambition. There are a lot of moving parts in this serial killer-ghost story hybrid, some of which rely heavily on coincidence to set them in motion. Still, when Madame Zaza makes contact, things definitely get spooky. In fact, Evers-Swindell masterfully capitalizes on the claustrophobic nature of radio studio to heighten the tension. Unfortunately, most genre fans will immediately guess who the Wedlock Killer really is, because it’s the sort of person it always is in horror movies.

Regardless, it is jolly good fun to see giallo veteran Cinzia Monreale returning to the genre as the mysterious Zaza. Siwan Morris is also appealingly disdainful as Wolf. However, Joanna Igaczewska’s Komisarczyk does not look like she could last five seconds in a farm house of death.

Evers-Swindell and co-screenwriter Antony Jones also manage to tie up all the loose ends in a surprisingly satisfying package, which is all too rare in recent horror releases. Frankly, it is eerie and inventive enough to put it on the right side of the bell curve. Easily recommendable for regular horror consumers, Dark Signal opens this Friday (6/2) in Los Angeles, at the Arena CineLounge Sunset.

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