DVD REVIEW: DARKNESS DESCENDS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MARC CLEBANOFF / SCREENPLAY: FRANK KRUEGER / STARRING: DANNY TREJO, KINGA PHILIPPS, FRANK KRUEGER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
A rare 101 Films release that comes without a heavily Photoshopped picture of a house or a reference to The Cabin in the Woods on the cover. Front and centre is cult movie and Old El Paso advert icon, The Wrong Mexican himself, Danny Trejo.
The Trej does a passable Bane impression in Darkness Descends, a low-budget thriller that sets the big man up as some sort of cult revolutionary – and then proceeds to have him appear only occasionally in the film. Will horror fans ever learn? Since Machete and its sequel, Trejo has been steadily making a living from his brief appearances in trashy, cheap genre films, from The Cloth (Trejo as a Catholic Priest) through Zombie Hunter (Trejo as Jesus), Haunted High (a janitor, locked in a cupboard) and Old El Paso (creepy uncle). Worse, when he does take the lead, we end up with nonsense such as Machete Kills or, even worse, Bad Ass and its sequel. While Trejo has always been a bit-part actor, his recent fame has given certain distribution companies to promote the man as star, like his fellow B-Movie heroes Lance Henriksen and Eric Roberts.
Still, at least the film has some cause to slap Trejo's massive pocked-marked face all over the cover. Although his actual screen time may be sparse, the character is given enough importance (in a semi-mythological Colonel Kurtz kind of way) that his presence looms heavy even when he's not around. Which is quite a lot.
The rest of the film is spent with documentary filmmaker Chelsea (Philipps) as she investigates underground revolutionary Angel (Trejo) and his growing legion of followers, gathering in the abandoned subway tunnels of New York. The influence of Tom Hardy's Bane and The Dark Knight Rises is felt throughout, in both Angel's actions and pretentious speechifying. “Once you taste the darkness...” Trejo growls in his inimitable crushed glass tones, “...it seduces you.” Cartoons aside, it's the closest we'll ever get to Trejo playing Bane. The low budget inhibits the underground warrior's behaviour, sparing us Nolan's stupid 'every cop in Gotham is trapped in the sewers' midsection or predictable assault on Wall Street. It's a step above the angry 'GamerGate' (having also taken Bane on as their inspiration), but not by much. His followers are only slightly less annoying; although at least they don't have access to Twitter.
Like Bane, Anonymous, and angry gamers, Darkness Descends seems convinced that it has something deep and profound to say. Unfortunately, for the most part it just comes across as silly and pretentious. As its acoustic guitar-playing hippies sit around a campfire and Trejo spouts off excerpts from Revolutionaries for Dummies, one can't help but wish that Batman might swoop on in and beat the lot of them about their collective heads with that very same guitar.