Directed by: Edward Evers-Swindell
Starring: Siwan Morris, Gareth David-Lloyd, Joanna Ignaczewska, James Cosmo
Its the night of the final broadcast at a local radio station deep in the rural Welsh Valleys, and presenter Laurie and her technical assistant Ben are covering their usual late-night slot. Tonight though they have a medium as a guest, and her presence brings them in contact with a ghostly presence who may be one of the victims of a local serial killer known as the Wedlock Killer, known for cutting off the ring finger of his victims.
Meanwhile, single mother Kate finds herself in deep water when she agrees to help her boyfriend Nick break into someone's house because he's owed money. Standing lookout at an isolated farmhouse, she is first accosted by a local farmer and then by a more supernatural presence - could this be linked to what is happening on the radio show?
Dark Signal has received something of an extra PR push because it is executive-produced by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Game of Thrones) but this is a film which, for the most part, can totally stand up for itself.
Things don't start particularly well, however. I'm never a fan of opening scenes set at the very end of the film, presenting us with enigmatic imagery which will make sense later. I'm also not a fan of clunky exposition dressed up as a news report, the writing for this part of the film is pretty awful.
However, things do improve immediately we get to the radio station. Siwan Morris plays Laurie, an ascerbic radio host who, it turns out, has a good reason to feel bitter with the world. Gareth David-Lloyd is her put-upon technician Ben, who it turns out has a thing for the supernatural and has invited a renowned psychic called Carla onto the show.
The other plot, featuring Kate and Nick threatens to be overly maudlin to begin with, as we get to see the sort of dire straits Kate is in and what might make her accompany her boyfriend Nick on this ill-thought out plan. As Nick himself states, you never know what you're really capable of doing, or handling, until pushed to your limits, and that is certainly true of Kate.
So, after a shaky start, Dark Signal develops into a very effective and atmospheric horror film, with more than a touch of originality to its story. I love films which deal with people investigating the paranormal and this is an interesting spin on that genre. Siwan Morris's very expressive eyes really help in this respect as she turns from scornful sceptic to being shocked by what they discover hidden in the airwaves of their broadcast.
Dark Signal follows the current trend (and long may it continue) of doing away with fake scares, the old "oh, its just the cat jumping out!" kind of moment, and replacing them with genuinely unnerving moments. And there is a lot of logic as to why and how they occur, too.
The cast is great all round, with the female leads doing the best work. Siwan Morris is perfectly bitchy and flint-edged, but there is a great moment when she plays a record she herself had made, and the whole weight of her world, the regret and the loss that she carries with her each and every day, can be seen etched on her face. Meanwhile Joanna Ignaczewska gets to go through a huge transformation, from helpless and pitiful person to someone who is able to draw on untapped depths of strength and resolve. She is really put through the wringer in this film but each time comes back fighting even harder than before.
And the finale, the big twist which hits at the end, is damn good, and totally fits what we already know - we just don't pay attention until its too late. A clever piece of misdirection, to be sure, and one which leaves you with little hope for the protagonists to survive.
The Welsh need to be making more horror movies if they maintain this standard. The use of the countryside evokes the isolation of the characters, the accents are unlike anything else on screen out there and the story hits enough points of originality. Too bad the shaky beginning lets it down a notch but overall, a very effective horror and recommended by us.
7 out of 10 - Recommended (MikeOutWest)