Kate is having mental problems. The issues grows larger when her girlfriend is going away for a few days just as the 2003 blackout in New York City breaks out. Kate is stuck in their apartment, alone and in complete darkness, when her paranoia and disturbed mind starts crawling up to the surface.
It seems like I have heard about "Dark" ever since after watching "Gut" (written and directed by Elias, who also co-produced and wrote the screenplay for "Dark"), which was a few years back now. One of the big reasons for hearing a lot about the movie was due to Joe Dante joining up as executive producer, but as a big supporter of "Gut" I was already interested in "Dark" for other reasons. Sometimes mislabeled as a horror movie (or at least expected to be one by some), "Dark" seems to mainly draw inspiration from Polanski's "Repulsion", which arguably is more of a surreal drama/thriller than horror. "Dark" undeniably is more drama than "Repulsion" due to it not including the surreal elements. That's not to say that "Dark" doesn't give you a feeling of similar unease.
The movie quickly throws you into the mindset of our lead (Kate) - a mentally disturbed woman who seems eager to harm herself or let herself get harmed. While she and her girlfriend (Leah) are making love, she urges Leah to pull her hair, choke her and be rough. Leah is put off by this request. Soon after it is revealed that Leah, a photographer, will be leaving for a few days for a job, which leaves the vulnerable Kate to herself. The same day as Leah leaves, the 2003 NYC blackout breaks out. As night gets closer and the darkness surrounds the city, Kate gets more and more lonely, paranoid and dangerous to herself. What follows is a scared woman trying to stay sane until the sun comes back up.
Yes, the premise sounds like a horror movie, and Nick Basile makes sure that it is executed like a movie. This is probably where some of the bad reviews come from. It looks and walks like a duck. To anyone expecting a horror movie, or even a surreal trip like "Repulsion", this might come off as something slow and boring. To me, this is not too far from the style and atmosphere of "Gut", so I felt comfortable in my expectations. Luckily, I am a sucker for psychologically intense dramas. Not to mention I am a paranoid person. I don't trust people at all, and "Dark" hits pretty much all the notes of the unease that builds up when your mind starts messing with you.
I can't argue that the movie is slow. It is, but it's the right pace for it. This movie manages to survive because we have a very strong lead actress who seems to have perfected the unstable character role. Whitney Able feels real and conveys the range of emotions needed almost flawlessly. Had Whitney Able been a bad actress, "Dark" would honestly have been horrible. I don't say that to discredit the screenplay or the direction, but this relies on the lead and Whitney Able shows the most natural and real acting among the cast. To be fair, there are no weak links among the actors in "Dark" to begin with, but when watching Whitney it feels less like a character and more like a person.
Much like "Gut", there are some predictable elements here. It's not hard to see where certain things are going, but the movie also goes against certain other clichés. Though ending was quite expected, I really enjoyed the whole way there. "Dark" is a great drama/thriller that steps away from supernatural or surreal elements, and simply works almost solely with one of the strongest human emotions. Hopefully more people who don't expect "Dark" to be a horror will get a chance to see it, but at this point that's where it does market itself. It could harm the movie in the long run, but my review should help you understand exactly what "Dark" is. If it sounds interesting then you should absolutely seek it out. It will be released by Screen Media in US on June 7, but it's available On Demand in other countries.