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The Dark Hours
cast: Kate Greenhouse, Aiden Devine, Gordon Currie, Iris Graham, and Dov Tiefenbach

director: Paul Fox

80 minutes (18) 2005 widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Anchor Bay UK DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Dr Samantha Goodman is a beautiful and successful psychiatrist. She has a loving husband who writes, and a younger sister. She also has an inoperable brain tumour... and it has suddenly started to grow. Wanting support from her family, and to reveal to them that she hasn't got long left, she travels to her husband's house in the country where she finds her young sister and husband together. The group bond over a game of Operation before Sam reveals her terrible news, but just as the family begin to come to terms with what's happened, there's a knock at the door. A young man claiming to be lost appears, and Sam invites him in (despite it being the dead of night). It's not long before the stranger has pulled a gun on them, and opened the door for an escaped mental patient. Committed for a brutal murder and rape, and placed in Dr Sam's care, Harlan turns out to have the same kind of tumour as Goodman. Harlan begins to play sadistic games, terrorising the family and wanting Sam to admit what she did to him... but the games uncover other truths as well.

The psychological thriller genre is almost unique in so far as it is exclusively about plot. Violence is usually threatened or suggested rather than shown meaning that there is no need to waste money on lavish special effects. Similarly, the genre isn't really about human drama so the actors needn't be top draw either for the movie to work. Indeed, the few effects' shots that the film does contain are realistic and low-key, and the actors are jobbing TV actors rather than big screen stars. However, despite being made for what must have been little money, The Dark Hours is a psychological thriller in the finest traditions of the genre as it is one gigantic head-fuck from beginning to end.

Like The Jacket, The Usual Suspects and Memento before it, The Dark Hours is a film that sets off pretending to be one thing only for the plot and imagery to twist away in unexpected directions. As the film progresses, the boundary between reality and hallucination begins to become porous as dead characters come back to life, impossible situations occur and events are seen again and again from different perspectives but with different outcomes. The Dark Hours is one of those films where the end of the film marks only the beginning of your understanding of what went on. You'll know that some bits were real and some bits weren't but, when you try and work out which was which, you'll be reaching for your remote control and arguing with your friends.

The Dark Hours is a testament to how much can be achieved with a strong script. Made for little money and occasionally a bit shaky, this is a film that will enthral lovers of psychological thrillers but enrage pretty much everyone else. It's a proper genre film.
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