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When a boy bands lead singer mysteriously diappears the media says that he ran away because he could not handle the fame, but really the other band members killed him and have hidden their identities as undead from every one. With an "American Idol" type audtition they remaining band members choose a new guy to fill the place. Now he must go to an isolated mansion to be initiated, but soon learns what the others really are and decides he would rather not be party of the band. Written by
Ring of Darkness begins with a young man sneaking through a large home at night. He escapes through a window and we see him run down to a rocky beach. Four other young men confront him and we realize that he knows them. He's the singer of their band. He threatens to expose them but they won't allow it. They attack him instead. They seem to be biting him. Soon after, we learn that they're "Take 10", a boy band in the vein of *NSync and Backstreet Boys. They search for a new lead singer through an "American Idol" (2002)-styled audition process. When three candidates are chosen, they're taken to the home we saw in the beginning of the film for the final leg of their audition. Just what was the band's secret, and will the new candidates accept it?
This is the first 5 out of 10 I've seen in a while, which is a shame, because 5 out of 10 is my rating for "So bad it's good". On most technical and artistic levels, Ring of Darkness is a disaster. But it's enough of a disaster that it's a lot of fun to watch, for all the "wrong" reasons. I laughed more hysterically during some scenes than I do for all but the rarest comedies.
Near the beginning of the film, director David DeCoteau "treats" us to a complete music video of our faux boy band. The music couldn't be cheesier. To amp up the torture, we have to hear this same song over and over for at least the first half hour of the film. Later on the same footage is constantly intercut into other scenes. It is also used with different music (which is better), edited in a way that is supposed to suggest additional Take 10 videos. Padding is a big theme throughout the film. The music video isn't the only footage reused.
There are also chase scenes that go on for what seem to be hours, until there's not one shred of suspense left. DeCoteau and editor Danny Draven, two Full Moon alumni (which might be bad news in itself to many, but I actually like quite a few Full Moon films; at least they're far better than Ring of Darkness), cut the chase scenes with "fancy" changes in the film speed. The final result just looks ridiculous and feels like more padding.
The funniest aspect for me was the acting, and the worst offender was Ryan Starr (as Stacy), who comes to the film world by way of her stint as a contestant on "American Idol". Starr has a chronic case of marble mouth. On top of it, she says her lines far too quickly and she emotes as well as a brick wall. Why would DeCoteau just let such a shoddy performance pass? Maybe he didn't, but he couldn't get any improvement. That may be why Starr, whose picture is prominently in the center of the poster and video box art, is strangely absent for long periods of time. Not that most of the other actors are any better. Even a veteran like Adrienne Barbeau comes across poorly in the film. Surprisingly, there was one good performance--Coltin Scott (aka Stephen Scott Martines), as boy band candidate Shawn, was quite entertaining. He should get himself to a better film. Quick.
For a film that's ostensibly a horror flick, there is very little horror here. The "attack scenes", as few and far between as they are, are all shown with wide shots. They are completely bloodless. For scenes in Take 10's "secret lair", victims are bound and "slashed", except it's the worst knife wound effect I've ever seen. It couldn't be clearer that there is just some oddly colored fluid coming out of the knife, with absolutely no perforation of flesh. The make-up, which is important later in the film to establish the true nature of Take 10, looks worse than what an eight your old could do with your typical dime store Halloween kit.
It's difficult to know exactly whom the film is supposed to appeal to. My guess is that young teenaged girls and gay men would like it the most, as DeCoteau, who is an openly gay director and is well known for his homoerotic genre films, fills Ring of Darkness with men in various states of undress, posing for the cameras. As another reviewer noted, there are strong subtexts based on the inherent gayness of boy bands. The threatened exposure in the beginning can be seen as a threatened "outing" of sexual orientation. Take 10's bonding rituals have strong homoerotic overtones, as does the bondage and fluid ingestion that takes place in their secret lair. The name of the film can be seen as a double entendre (although it's just as likely to be intended to cash in on the success of the Ring films as well as the Spanish horror film from 2002 known as Darkness), similar to Andy Dick's song "Little Brown Ring", or indeed even "Backstreet Boys". This might all be very interesting if only the film weren't such an artistic toxic waste dump.
But again for its unintentional properties, Ring of Darkness is extremely funny. I actually had to pause the film a number of times because I was laughing so hard. I had tears streaming from my eyes. After a while, whenever Starr would appear, I would lose it.
I feel bad having to "bash" this film. From what I know about DeCoteau, he sounds like a great guy who goes out of his way to give breaks to aspiring filmmakers. I'm also a Fangoria fanatic. Scriptwriter Michael Gingold has long been Managing Editor of Fangoria. But I also have to give my honest opinion as a critic--this film sucks. It's only worth seeing for free, and only if you are the type to create your own "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (1988)-styled commentary.
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