DARK SIGNAL

3 out of 10

Release Date: 23rd May 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Edward Evers-Swindell

Cast: Siwan Morris, Joanna Ignaczewska, Gareth David-Lloyd, Cinzia Monreale, Duncan Pow with Eleanor Gecks and James Cosmo

Writer: Edward Evers-Swindell

Trailer: DARK SIGNAL

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Here’s a weird one. A ghost story cum serial killer horror-comedy from Wales that starts and sputters like an old engine.  Some aspects really work and others barely wing it. On the final evening before a Welsh radio station closes down for good, the programmers think it’s a great idea to get a medium on the show to conduct a seance. A bit daft really considering the police are searching for a serial killer who loves collecting girls’ fingers. Also elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the radio stations number one fan, a Polish bad actor Joanna Ignaczewska is helping her boyfriend rob a house. Only thing is a ghost intervenes. The medium also manages to contact said ghost but will the scooby doo gang and the Polish burglar solve the killer riddle.

The bits with the burglar in are slow and badly acted, the radio station bits and associated scenes before all three strands combine are relatively good fun, but then it goes a bit uneven. The resulting film is like it’s been made by two directors or more. It’s occasionally scary, then a similar scene botches the same set-up. The twist is pretty good and I liked it. It’s been used in Saw (if you liked those films) but it’s nice to see a new twist on an uncommon but already used twist.

James Cosmo (BREAKDOWN (2016)) must be the busiest and oldest actor in low-budget land at the moment and he usually makes a difference but his role here is forgettable and throw away. Which is a shame. Elsewhere Siwan Morris (WOLFBLOOD), Gareth David-Lloyd (TORCHWOOD) and Cinzia Monreale (FRANKENSTEIN 2000) (all unknown to me) have a good chemistry and the script is nicely and wittily written and spooky where it counts. I’m sure they were unaware of how shit the rest of the film turned out to be. Some decent special-effects involving somebody on fire are better than the floaty ghosts of girls.

So whilst it could have been better, at least it’s borrowed a few good ideas, including The Fog, its mostly watchable. There are many worse Welsh horrors out there and this is far from the worst – so read that in the spirit you find it.

3 out of 10

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Siwan Morris: Wolfblood (TV), Skins (TV)
  • Gareth David-Lloyd: Torchwood (TV), Dr Who (TV)
  • Cinzia Monreale: Frankenstein 2000, The Beyond, Beyond The Darkness
  • Duncan Pow: Pegasus Bridge, The Chameleon, 24 (TV), Holby City (TV)
  • Eleanor Gecks: Young Dracula (TV)
  • James Cosmo: The Ten Bells, Eliminators, Whiskey Galore (2016), London Heist, Tomorrow (2016), Ben Hur (2016), Project 12 – The Bunker, Breakdown (2016), The Legend of Barney Thompson, Estranged, The Christmas Candle, We Still Kill The Old Way, Citadel, Hammer Of The Gods, Get Lucky, Game Of Thrones (TV), Outcast, Half Light, The Chronicles Of Narnia – The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe, Troy, The Four Feathers (2002), Once Upon a Time In The Midlands, The Match, Babe 2 (voice), Emma (1996), Trainspotting, Braveheart, Stormy Monday, Highlander
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One thought on “DARK SIGNAL

  1. Review by Matt Usher

    Is Welsh horror a proper, identifiable genre? Offhand I can think of the quite abominably awful and abysmally atrocious SILVERHIDE, and that’s about it. But I’ve also been re-watching Torchwood lately which did its bit for Welsh macabre storytelling. So if it is a genre it’s one which could do with some help. DARK SIGNAL, which by an amazing coincidence co-stars Torchwood’s very own doomed bisexual alien-battling, coffee-making, pterodactyl-keeping secretary Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) (surely the Welshest name ever bestowed?), is a step in the right direction. But only a baby step.

    David-Lloyd plays a producer at a local Welsh radio station which is broadcasting for the last time due to the evils of centralised globalisation, which seems to be broadcasting from what looks like a small lighthouse in the middle of a Welsh nowhere. The presenter of the station’s final show is a sarcastic and world-weary DJ played by Siwan Morris, an actress with saucer-like eyes and frankly too few jobs on her CV. Obviously no-one in their right minds would want to be a late-night local-radio host so her back-story is that she was a promising singer whose career was cut short in horrifyingly tragic traumatic circumstances which I can’t now remember.

    Needing an ear-catching gimmick as they record their final show, they engage the services of an Italian medium / clairvoyant / whatever (played by 70s/80s giallo legend Cinzia Monreale) (me neither) to add a splash of spookiness to proceedings. Unfortunately, she’s not a fake and has a touch of the abdabs when she detects a mysterious whisper over the airwaves hinting at a restless spirit manifesting in the vicinity, which constitutes the titular dark signal.

    Meanwhile there’s another plot strand involving cash-strapped Polish immigrant Joanna Ignaczewska and her mixed-race disabled infant son. I don’t know, they come over here, watch TVs they can’t afford, then get into supernatural scrapes, thank goodness the despicable Mr Farage has put paid to that sort of thing. But not before the dizzy girl has got herself whisked away to the middle of a Welsh nowhere (note: a slightly different Welsh nowhere to the nowhere where the radio station is, though within running distance as it later transpires) by her mysterious Scottish boyfriend (and the sooner his lot vote to leave the better all round). His plan is to steal some money from a nearby house (which is actually his parents’ house except he’s pretending it’s not because oh I don’t know why he’s pretending). This leaves our heroine alone in the car in the woods and at the mercy of grumpy farmer James Cosmo (truly the Gielgud of the low budget film scene – alas even he has an off-day once in a while, and this is one of them; fortunately he gets bumped off quite quickly). Our heroine’s nocturnal sojourn leads to her stumbling onto the third part of the plot: there’s a serial killer roaming round Wales merrily lopping off women’s fingers! She finds this out the hard way obviously and her knees become the target of some very nasty violence (though they’re not so mangled she can’t run and drive cars later on). Meanwhile there are ghosts floating about all over the place, and her son gets possessed, and the babysitter gets scared and everyone makes a mad dash for the radio station because that’s where our heroine said she was going even though she wasn’t though in the end she does, and the revelation when it comes … well …

    I have two requirements for a twist ending to work: the twist must be unforeseen, but it must also (in hindsight) be inevitable. Certainly DARK SIGNAL’s twist was unforeseen (by me at least) and this was due to the film’s sneaky structure (no complaints – there is a clue though I have a feeling that the clue actually fibs – and it seems to me that the baddie must have agreed with a goodie to do something before the baddie could have known that doing that something was something that needed doing, unless he always planned to do the something but was merely distracted by another something which merely delayed the first something – that might make sense). The point is that the twist doesn’t feel like it makes sense even if it does, and it also feels more like a cobbled-together solution rather than something inevitable. Some of that may be down to the acting in the final section, though you can defend certain acting choices I suppose by referring to the banality of evil quote. But even if it is water-tight (and I don’t think it is) it doesn’t feel like it is.

    DARK SIGNAL looks very good – it has some proper actors (though Morris is underused and David-Lloyd lacks a certain something) and looks like a real film with decent cinematography and good visual effects. Some of the sequences in the radio studio are very stylishly done and you do wonder if the whole thing might have been better if the story had been more confined. There are a few good jump moments but nothing which lingers. There’s also that annoying thing where ghosts appear to the audience without being noticed by the cast – what is the point of an unseen ghost?

    DARK SIGNAL bites off more than it can chew and ends up not doing much at all. And the problem lies in the story itself: it’s the tale of a ghostly spirit, but also the tale of a homicidal maniac, but also the tale of someone lost in the woods who thinks she’s abetting a break-in (but isn’t), and it’s also the tale of a dying radio station, and there’s a possessed child, and an unhappy farmer, and a distressed clairvoyant. Any of these could provide plenty of material, but the film-makers have mixed too much in here and ended up with a mush: part insipid horror, part uninvolving whodunit, with dollops of vaguely pointless characterization and indigestible storylines leading only to a Welsh nowhere.

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