By Scott Dorward
Deep Dark (USA, 2015)
“I’m gonna need a lot of blood.”
My method of picking candidates for the October Horror Movie Challenge is as chaotic as everything else in my life. Some are films that I’ve been meaning to watch for years; others have been recommended to me by people with similar tastes; and, a few, I just picked at random from streaming services. I chose Deep Dark simply because it involved a weird hole (more on that later). This has proved to be a stroke of luck!
Hermann Haig has a dream. As a visionary young artist, he sees the beauty in mobiles. Sadly for him, the rest of the world does not. He dreams of having his work displayed in a glamorous gallery owned by the equally glamorous Devora. Sadly, Hermann’s attempt to gain her attention ends in catastrophe and a lot of blood.
In desperation, Hermann calls his uncle Felix, a successful artist living a life of indolent luxury. Felix offers a solution — Hermann needs to rent his old apartment, where his career took off. This will give Hermann the inspiration he needs. Happily, Felix now owns the building and can lease him the room for, well, pretty much all the money Hermann has.
When Hermann arrives at the apartment, he finds that it’s a dump. The only furniture is a mattress on the ground. What wallpaper there is hangs off the walls. And, behind a picture of a peacock, there is a hole in the plasterboard.
After two weeks, Hermann hits rock bottom. Just as he is ready to give up, the hole begins to communicate with him. At first, this is in the form of notes tied to lengths of thread. Later, however, the hole develops the mellifluous voice of a woman.
This, Hermann discovers, is his uncle’s one-time muse. She has guided many artists over the years, bringing them to greatness. The hole disgorges lumps of organic matter that Hermann incorporates into his mobiles, making them irresistible to anyone who sees them.
Of course, all this comes at a price. Rather than blood sacrifices or the promise of his immortal soul, the hole just wants Hermann’s love. As their relationship intensifies, however, the hole grows jealous and demanding. When Hermann falls for gallery owner Devora, tragedy becomes inevitable.
When we were putting out our lockdown specials for our Patreon backers, I read Kathe Koja’s The Cipher and watched The Hill and the Hole within a week of each other. Around the same time, I stumbled upon Deep Dark and The Hole in the Ground, and toyed with the idea of a special episode about magical holes. It seemed like a suitably odd theme to explore. Sadly, I didn’t have time to watch them all before our next recording, but kept those last two films on my list.
The Hole in the Ground proved to be an interesting if slightly flat Irish folk horror tale that did, indeed, involve a creepy hole in the ground. It has been somewhat overshadowed in my mind by the far superior The Hallow, which explores some of the same ideas.
When I read the premise of Deep Dark, I wondered if it owed anything to The Cipher. The premise of artists obsessed with a magical hole in a dingy apartment building seemed pretty specific. In execution, Deep Dark is completely different, going for discomfort rather than existential horror. The tone reminded me more of oddball black comedies like Eating Raoul or The Dark Backward. I still can’t help but wonder if The Cipher was an inspiration., however
As an aside, Deep Dark opens with a scene that nearly made me turn it off in the first minute. Uncle Felix is in bed and notices a thread poking out of his stomach. He pulls on it, unravelling his navel in a gout of blood. I had a number of nightmares like this when I was a kid and seeing it on the screen produced a visceral sense of fear and disgust that I rarely get from films. It’s strange to see my nightmares on-screen so vividly. I’m not sure if I liked the experience.
One of the highlights of previous October Horror Movie Challenges has been stumbling into weird films I may not have watched otherwise and falling in love with them. Deep Dark would have passed under my radar if I had not been looking for lots of films I hadn’t seen. I have no idea why it’s not better known. It certainly deserves to be.
While definitely a horror film, Deep Dark is not scary in any respect. A few scenes offer a slight sense of dread, but most of the film is simply macabre fun. That’s not to say it feels innocent or harmless — there is plenty of blood, disgust and sexual transgression. It’s just that the film never tries to frighten us. And that’s fine.
Deep Dark is going to stick with me. It hit all the right notes of comedy, horror and just sheer wrongness. While the story is a simple one, it has enough imagination and emotional depth to hook you in and keep you gripped. Highly recommended.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- 1 – Baskin (2015)
- 2 – The Bar (2017)
- 3 – The Editor (2014)
- 4 – The Beach House (2019)
- 5 – The Mummy (1959)
- 6 – The Wind (2020)
- 7 – Tigers are Not Afraid (2018)
- 8 – Voices From Beyond (1991)
- 9 – Dearest Sister (2016)
- 10 – Patrick (1978)
- 11 – The Transfiguration (2016)
- 12 – The House at the End of Time (2013)
- 13 – The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
- 14 – The Hallow (2015)
- 15 – Night of the Demons (1988)
- 16 – Deep Dark (2015)
- 17 – The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)
- 18 – Black Sheep (2006)
- 19 – The Battery (2012)
- 20 – Eaten Alive (1976)
- 21 – Satan’s Slaves (2017)
- 22 – Evolution (2015)
- 23 – Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973)
- 24 – The Dead Center (2018)
- 25 – Your Vice is a Locked Room and I Have the Only Key (1972)
- 26 – The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
- 27 – Here Comes the Devil (2012)
- 28 – Gretel & Hansel (2020)
- 29 – Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)
- 30 – The Stepfather (1987)
- 31 – In Fabric (2018)
Be warned that I may alter this list according to availability, what I feel like watching at the time, and sheer capriciousness.
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!