Thursday, October 25, 2012

Various Apocalypses Part 5: The Dark Hour

Spanish film about knowing what you had once it's gone. A group of survivors from an unidentified cataclysm go about their lives, educating their young, maintaining what they can of their life support in what looks like the last available underground bunker.

Frequent sorties are needed to the outside to cull the zomboid hordes who are encroaching and can infect through the slightest contact. The infection works faster than the one in 28 Days Later and when one of the party does get touched he agrees to be shot to death on the spot. Also, there are the invisibles creatures violent and stealthy that move through the bunker and enter any unsecured door with fatal results. This happens during the "cold hour". The reasons for this naming of hours are unclear until the end. As they constitute a massive spoiler I'll leave them out here.

The day to day is being recorded by the ten year old boy Jesus with his mini dv camera. He stands in as unofficial narrator. He is not in every scene nor is his narration. Though it begins looking like one The Dark Hour is is not a found footage piece. The entire film's video look is there (apart from budgetary concerns) to lend a claustrophobic and ugly edge to the setting. Works.

Jesus and his friend Magda visit old timer Judas in the lower bunkers for their education. Though Magda is a little older than Jesus neither can remember the time before the disaster. Judas plies them with tv, cinema and books from the time as well as his own knowledge and experience. The hopelessness of any idea of a return to this state is almost solid. When Judas gives Magda an old makeup kit, her delight is profoundly saddening in the grimy light of her home.

This is a studiously plain film, measuring its action and dramatics with a weary eye on the maintenance of life. Quite a lot happens in its reasonable 90 plus minutes of screen life but the sense that it would anyway is strong. Only when the pressures of the zombies and phantom visitors mount too dangerously to ignore does the flat and pointless existence meet its inevitable and probably final challenge. The rest is spoilers.

Because of the intentional lack of action movie flash and the surprises of the climax it's hard to say much about this film. If it is to be so realistically grim and ugly why have the big signpost character names like Jesus, Judas and Magda? Wouldn't Juan, Salma and Ignac have worked better, considering the end-time theme was impossible to misconstrue to begin with? They stick out like uncorrected writer brainstorm session contrivances. But this is really the worst I have against The Dark Hour, a film that blends its cinematic heritage and welcome morsel of orginality so well that even at its grimmest it manages to disarm. I saw mine on an imported dvd. Maybe SBS?

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