When you’re deal­ing in arche­typ­al hor­ror, you can deal with the use of famil­iar ele­ments in a cou­ple of ways. You can try to find fresh vari­a­tions on those ele­ments, you can cross­breed them with ele­ments from anoth­er gen­re or you can just throw var­i­ous gen­re ele­ments togeth­er in a pile, hop­ing that the fric­tion of that throw­ing-togeth­er process pro­duces some fresh cre­ative sparks.

The last of those choic­es is what Deep In The Darkness goes for: the results are sel­dom dull but that hoped-for cre­ative spark nev­er kicks in. Instead, you get a mixed set of mis­matched tropes that nev­er quite fit togeth­er.

Deep In The Darkness begins with Dr. Michael Cayle (Sean Patrick Thomas), the arche­typ­al city guy who wants to ditch the rat race for peace­ful coun­try liv­ing, buy­ing a great house that becomes avail­able with sus­pi­cious ease. Even bet­ter, he also picks up the town doc­tor gig of the vacat­ing ten­ant and moves his wife Cristine (Kristen Bush) and daugh­ter Jessica DeepITD-blu(Athena Grant) into the new house.

He quick­ly real­izes his bar­gain isn’t what he hoped for when all the town­folk act weird, his wife becomes dis­tant after falling under the influ­ence of town matron Lady Zellis (Blanche Baker) and his neigh­bor Phil (Dean Stockwell) warns him that life in this peace­ful burg comes with a nasty price that involves rit­u­al sac­ri­fices and a race of inhu­man beings. Cue a bar­rage of dream sequences, para­noid inter­ac­tions with town­ies and plen­ty of mon­ster attacks.

Deep In The Darkness was pro­duced by the Chiller Network and is weird­ly ambi­tious for a cable t.v. movie. It’s the work of direc­tor Colin Theys and screen­writer John Doolan, who adapt­ed this from a Michael Laimo nov­el. The results are more atmos­pher­ic and free of the jokey fan­boy humor that marred their ear­lier efforts Alien Opponent and Remains.

Unfortunately, what they pro­duce is a bud­get-priced rehash of con­cepts and tropes you’ve seen in oth­er, more skill­ful­ly real­ized films: there’s the house with a secret, the seem­ing­ly peace­ful town full of clos­et weirdos, the fam­i­ly that finds ter­ror instead of com­fort in the coun­try, etc. It feels like some­one threw The Wicker Man, a few H.P. Lovecraft tales and a mon­sters-in-the-woods flick into a blender and hit purée. After a rea­son­ably well-paced first act, the script gets chaotic and more inco­her­ent as it goes along — and when the mon­sters pop up, their design and behav­ior is more sil­ly than scary.

As for the direc­tion, Deep In The Darkness looks nice thanks to skill­ful­ly com­posed ‘scope-for­mat cin­e­matog­ra­phy but Theys has trou­ble with pac­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly once the script starts pil­ing on the famil­iar hor­ror tropes, and the stag­ing of the set­pieces is often too hec­tic to make the hor­ror con­tent stick. The cast tries hard, with old pro Stockwell far­ing the best, but the all-too-famil­iar and thin­ly drawn char­ac­ter­i­za­tions work again­st their earnest efforts.

In short, Deep In The Darkness is tech­ni­cal­ly com­pe­tent but falls down in terms of vison. The col­li­sion of ele­ments from dif­fer­ent areas of the hor­ror gen­re have a lit­tle inter­est at the start but the film­mak­ers nev­er find a fresh angle on any of them and can’t quite make them cohere into a mem­o­rable film.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory recent­ly issued this title in blu-ray form. The trans­fer does well by the film’s mut­ed col­or schemes and crisp dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy and the 5.1 stereo mix gets plen­ty of oom­ph from its loss­less pre­sen­ta­tion. Extras are lim­it­ed to a trail­er, a cou­ple of clev­er teaser spots and series of brief EPK-style clips that mix footage from the film with sound-bites from the cast and crew.