Studio: XLrator Media
Director: Edward Evers-Swindell
Writer: Antony Jones, Edward Evers-Swindell
Producer: Jonas Babics
Stars: Siwan Morris, Gareth David-Lloyd, Joanna Ignaczewska, Duncan Pow, Eleanor Gecks, Cinzia Monreale, James Cosmo
The paths of a serial killer, a psychic, a vengeful ghost, and two thieves collide during a jaded radio DJ’s final broadcast.
“Dark Signal” exemplifies what it means to say that a movie comes together “clunkily.” Technically, “clunkily” isn’t a word, so perhaps “clumsily” should be used instead.
The story spins three separate threads straight away, and continues fraying ends into additional subplots from there. For somewhere in the neighborhood of half of the 95-minute runtime, it isn’t even clear if, let alone how, the different plotlines will ultimately come together.
It can be a frustrating experience of not knowing exactly what type of movie you are already in the middle of. It’s a bit like watching an anthology featuring a serial killer, a crime caper, and a supernatural whodunit involving a vengeful ghost, except all of the shorts are playing at the same time.
In the background of “Dark Signal” lurks The Wedlock Killer, a serial murderer so named because he snips the ring fingers off each victim using a pair of bolt cutters. File that tidbit away for now. Aside from a nightmare involving the killer that opens the movie, he doesn’t play a foreground role until later on.
Actually occupying the foreground is Laurie Wolf, a radio DJ reluctantly gearing up for her final broadcast. Laurie’s edgy attitude is already soured about unemployment. Her snarky spirit continues soaring sky high when engineer Ben springs supposed psychic Carla Zaza on Laurie as her final on air guest.
Elsewhere, Kate Komisarczyk is preparing for a job she doesn’t want to do either. Desperate for cash to care for her crippled son, Kate agrees to be her shady boyfriend Nick’s getaway driver for a home robbery heist. Nick says they are merely taking what he is rightfully owed from an unidentified man. However, Nick is keeping a secret from Kate poised to set her up for an unexpected encounter.
Meanwhile, Laurie’s audio engineer Ben phones Kate, a former flame who quietly shares his romantic interest, with an invite to give Laurie’s last show a listen. Ben isn’t the only connection the women share. While Carla contacts a supernatural spirit live on Laurie’s program, Kate finds herself encountering a ghost girl of her own. Now we just have to get back to the matter of uncovering exactly how the digit-snipping serial killer fits into these two seemingly separate pictures.
“Dark Signal” doesn’t keep its multiple plates spinning so much as wobbling while become chipped at the edges. Yet “Dark Signal” happens to be the best kind of strangely structured movie because it is so scattershot, it becomes fascinating to watch unfold. The film follows a bumpy path for sure. But at least it’s an oddly enjoyable ride.
A melting pot cast provides a big bite of that bizarreness. Siwan Morris (Laurie) seems to have fun with a charismatically caustic characterization, setting her style up as somewhat of a Welsh Constance Zimmer. Joanna Ignaczewska’s (Kate) Polish accent steps her performance out on the wrong foot of sounding like bad acting, though she gradually warms up to her role.
“Dark Signal’s” biggest “get” however, at least for Italian horror film fans, is the inclusion of Cinzia Monreale as psychic Carla. Monreale is well known for playing the blind woman in Lucio Fulci’s incredible classic “The Beyond,” where she acted under the name Sarah Keller. “Dark Signal” even names its ghost Sarah Keller as further tribute to Monreale. Director and co-writer Edward Evers-Swindell is obviously a Fulci fan, and his winks at that fact are good for a great deal of street cred.
Unusual is an understatement with regard to “Dark Signal.” The film devolves into some silliness late in the game, such as when the killer tunelessly whistles while setting up his grand finale. This comes after his identity is outed, so he decides he has nothing to lose by becoming a chatterbox about it too, verbally putting pieces together in the event viewers haven’t already filled in remaining blanks for themselves.
In spite of such forced-feeling scenes, Evers-Swindell’s commitment to going for broke by stirring up so many subgenres in a single story is admirable, even if it isn’t always effective. Keep expectations steady and “Dark Signal” emerges as a surprisingly entertaining supernatural mystery combined with serial killer thriller. Fine-tuned the film isn’t, though it certainly can be weirdly fun.
Review Score: 65