When Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood hit the screens in the ‘60s, it explored that almost Faustian dilemma: how far would you go to succeed in art? While the lead character in Michael Medaglia’s debut feature doesn’t actually sell his soul to the Devil, it’s not far from it at times.
Hermann Haig (McGrath) is a struggling (read: delusional) artist who’s convinced his mobiles (yes, those things you hang from the ceiling that usually only entertain young babies) are works that are gallery-worthy. The local dealers don’t think so, and after his latest disaster, he goes to visit his uncle, who had become rich by selling his work.
When Hermann rents his uncle’s former studio apartment for two weeks, he discovers the secret of his success and uses it for his own means. The room comes with a unique feature: a hole in the wall from which a series of notes appear. Then out comes a squishy ball, which he’s compelled to use on his art piece. Once it’s seen, his luck changes; the head of the gallery signs him up, and he is suddenly recognised in a new light. When he goes back to the studio, a sexy female voice comes from the hole. It tells him what he should do, and under her guidance, Hermann’s dreams come true. As would be expected, however, this comes with a price.
Deep Dark is a brutally skewed look at the art world and the vacuous types that occupy it. Be it those who hope to become successful, or the critics and dealers whose opinion can make or break a career. The horror element doesn’t take away from what is a biting satire on the art world; its fickleness and the manipulation of talent, or lack of it. Rivalry, jealousy and sexual urges all play a part in Hermann’s rise, and ultimately lead to the downfall of several characters.
The surreal, horrific elements certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the result is satisfying and provides the viewer with that age-old moral dilemma – can we live with ourselves after ‘cheating’ for success in our work? Like many, Hermann begins to believe the hype surrounding his overnight good fortune, and soon realises he needs the collaboration with The Hole to continue for the sake of his art.
The black, comedic characters wouldn’t be out of place in a Lynch film, and the film boasts a visceral feel not unlike something from a Cronenberg picture. There’s a prevalence of the thought that art eats you up inside and consumes you. Deep Dark is a thoroughly engaging cautionary tale, which despite the unnatural elements, is remarkably relatable.
DEEP DARK / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL MEDAGLIA / STARRING: SEAN MCGRATH, DENISE POIRIER, MONICA GRAVES / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10