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Categories: Movie Reviews

Darkness Descends is an action film with social conscious.

The plot follows documentary filmmaker Chelsea (Kinga Phillips) as she delves into New York’s suburban community. The ensemble of homeless, broken and displaced lives on the fringe of society make the bulk of her first-person interviews. Along the way she meets Jake (Frank Krueger) a grieving ex-cop who’s chosen to live alongside the diaspora.

In the midst of this community lives “Angel”. Is he an anti-hero, a villain, a vigilante? Well he’s played by Danny Trejo so he’s probably a little of all.

As expected Danny Trejo’s presence is palpably menacing and he brings a real gravitas to the role.

I would have liked Angel’s motivations to have been clearer – besides his rage and disdain for mainstream society; we are left with a gap of understanding as to why he is so angry. Perhaps this was writer Frank Krueger’s intention. However as an antagonist, Angel is believable thanks to Trejo’s ominousness. I could (worryingly) imagine copycat outlaws inhabiting our city sewers.

Meanwhile Chelsea and Jake share their own darkness and this is something which is revisited with different characters in the narrative. Perhaps this leaves us to wonder why some people are swallowed by the darkness whilst others can escape.

This theme of darkness, displacement and a return to the light is clear and a great effort is made to highlight this through Chelsea’s documentary featuring several of the subterranean inhabitants.

I would also merit the film for wanting to bring attention to an often overseen and misunderstood pocket of society; the homeless.

They are given voices, names and faces which is a commendable choice, and will hopefully open at least an emotional dialogue on how most of us regard the homeless.

The set is highly atmospheric. The lighting department hit the mark swathing Jake, Chelsea and co with darkness. Good enough in fact, that I almost didn’t notice that they were remarkably clean despite running around the sewers and tunnels of New York.

Although an independent feature, Darkness Descends has pulled in familiar names and faces which certainly adds star power behind it. An interesting cast, atmospheric lighting and thought-provoking themes make this a worthwhile film.


Christabel Samuel is a writer, director and editor. Having graduated from University College London with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Film Studies she is now a self-taught filmmaker, writer and perpetual learner. She won funding in 2011 for Lust in Translation and has gone on to judge at the London Film Festival, been appointed Head of Film for The Book Magazine and is currently editor-in-chief for The Spread.

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