Dark Entities, the debut feature film from writer/director Brandon McLemore (who also plays the male lead, Wes), is a film that wears its influences on its sleeve.
Following a tragic accident in 1977, the three Winters siblings move into the mysterious home they inherited. They soon discover the house holds dark secrets that seek to threaten everything they hold dear.
I like to picture an indie horror director as a cook, manically throwing all of his favorite ingredients into a pot and stirring it all together, letting the viewer see what the final product tastes like. At one point or another, Dark Entities’ viewers will recognize elements of *deep breath*: The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, The Shining, Insidious, The Conjuring, Poltergeist, The Beyond (minus the gore) and a little dash of Lovecraft thrown in. That’s not to say that Dark Entities isn’t an original film. It just puts some familiar components into a new story and lets it ride, so to speak.
Opening in 1947 with a grisly pick-axe murder in the attic of stately Alabama home, the film flashes abruptly forward to 1977 to a new family moving in: Wes (Brandon McLemore), his sister, Vera (Elena Ontiveros), and little brother, Ethan (Jackson Lee Turner). These mysteriously orphaned siblings have inherited the equally mysterious house.
Soon, strange noises from the attic, ghostly apparitions, a piece of antique jewelry, and the spiraling psyche of Wes combine to make the family start questioning each other and the dark secrets that their new home (and family) may be hiding.
Attention to detail is something that’s often overlooked in indie films. That isn’t the case here as the 1970s period clothing and hairstyles are spot on, or as much as you can be on a limited budget. Kudos to the production crew for their commitment to authenticity.
The performances from McLemore, Ontiveros, and Turner are adept enough to make for a believable family dynamic, although the brother-sister relationship between Wes and Vera comes off as a little too close to spouses. The latent creepiness of their relationship, intentional or not, manages to serve the story element of “deep, dark secrets” rather well though and helps the mood of the film.
Clocking in at a few minutes shy of two hours, McLemore’s project may be a tad too ambitious for a first feature as the film takes a little while to start cooking and could probably be trimmed of some fat. However, despite the obvious limitations of a film with a modest budget, the team behind Dark Entities manages to generate some genuine thrills and chills. The jarring nature of the sound mix on the film, while distracting in some set pieces, often adds to the effectiveness of the “jump scare” elements. And, for real, Wes’ fashion choices will haunt my dreams for weeks to come…
Overall, Dark Entities is an entertaining ride, and while it doesn’t break much new ground, it delivers the spooky goods in a grim, weirdly satisfying way.
Dark Entities will be available on streaming platforms on April 14, 2023.