Director: Daniel Wise
Writer: Ben Crane
Producer: Andrew Gernhard, Zach O’Brien, Kevin Shea
Stars: Tom Sizemore, Evalena Marie, Rick Ravanello, Kevin Shea, Anthony Del Negro, Adrienne LaValley
An ancient prophecy is revealed when a devilish creature and its half-human sister break free after 300 years of imprisonment.
If you live in a world where the thirteenth child of a thirteenth child is prophesized to be born half-man and half-beast, and you yourself are a thirteenth child who already has twelve children, maybe you shouldn’t roll the dice on impregnating your wife one more time. But, with frumpy-dressed Colonial Era goodwives being so irresistibly sexy, some ill-advised pseudo-stud does it anyway, leading to the 1735 birth of monstrous twins: a human girl with a tail and a winged beast with the power to induce hallucinatory visions.
Rather than killing the foul creature while it is still the size of a bat, a bat that takes a shortcut out of its mother’s womb through her stomach, some religious weirdos instead form a secret society dedicated to guarding the imprisoned siblings and arguing about whether or not to kill them for 300 years. By 2014, “The Keepers” have traded their powdered wigs for assault rifles and plain black hoodies in a fashionable look that says, “all of our overflow expenses came out of the wardrobe budget.” Up the hoods go on their sweatshirts and the unit sets out to transport the creature and its psychically-bonded sister on a Jersey Devil journey to fulfill an ancient prophecy (read: some mumbo-jumbo).
Written by one man and directed by another with no other related credits to their names, “Dark Haul” is the work of either pseudonyms or first-timers. The latter is likely since the movie’s odd hybrid of real actors and regular dudes smashed in a smorgasbord of mismatched cinema stylings suggests neophytes scraping things together with friends rounding out the cast and pages from a freshman year film textbook filling in the blanks.
When the big rig transport carrying the creature cage first fires up, the sequence is packaged in a montage of predictable insert shots rolling through close-ups of a boot on a pedal, a hand on the gearshift, an accelerating dashboard needle, and black smoke puffing out the cab-top exhaust pipe. Slow motion initially used solely for the heightened drama of loading the cage on the truck makes a repeat appearance for a bullet-riddled gunfight later in the film. Aside from that and the creature-cam POV, one-off shots like a face-pointed chest mount and a boom crane sweep never show up a second time. Capped by the telltale warble of a Wilhelm scream, “Dark Haul” is an assembly of film technique test drives employed with little rhyme and less of a reason.
Knicks is the agent in charge of the creature’s escort entourage. If Knicks’ face were an emoticon, it would be :/. He is determined to see his mission completed in spite of a “whatever” attitude turning his head in a forward-slash grimace whenever someone above thinks to know better than he. That attitude of entitled incredulity wafting through an air of veteran grit makes the character a perfect fit for actor Tom Sizemore, possibly channeling the same feeling he has about the project.
Having worked with Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, and Oliver Stone, seeing Sizemore play a standard tough guy gunman in a straightforward SyFy Channel creature feature is akin to watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play charity basketball on the island of Lilliput. It’s not a playoff-caliber effort, but then, no one needs him to do more than dribble the ball and tower over everyone else in what basically amounts to a half-speed exhibition game.
“Dark Haul” tumbles along tolerably enough for the mild made-for-cable horror it has on hand, actually arriving at its third act so fast that the tempo pauses for a boredom-inducing exposition chunk as the remaining guardians regroup, formulate plans, reiterate the plot, and go about chasing down the creature’s escaped sister Zib for the umpteenth time. No matter how many times she breaks free of her restraints, which happens whenever the script runs out of something for everyone to do, i.e. often, Knicks and the others still can’t break their habit of taking eyes off Zib repeatedly. Although they always recapture her anyway, so maybe there is no real cause for alarm.
“Dark Haul” is such an average movie that it deserves an average rating. It isn’t as much fun as a lowbrow monster movie can be, yet it isn’t an affront to the eyes and the ears, either. At best, the movie is an “I guess it wasn’t that bad” lark. At worst, it’s another forgettable 85 minutes added to the countless others misspent on a fascination for B-movies with more head-shakers than head-turners.
Review Score: 50