Darkness (1993)


USA. 1993.


Director/Screenplay/Producer/Photography – Leif Jonker, Music – Michael Curtis & Leif Jonker, Makeup Effects – Ferox FX (Leif Jonker & Gary Miller). Production Company – 13th Dream Entertainment/Evolution Digital Studios


Gary Miller (Tobe), Michael Gisick (Greg), Lisa Franz (Dianne), Cena Donham (Kelly), Randall Aviks (Linden), Christopher Owen Michael (Steve), Steve Brown (Jodie), Veronica Page Dennen (Officer), Jake Euker (John)


Friends in a small Kansas town return from a concert to find their families and everyone in the town have been slaughtered by a vampire. As the resurrected dead come after them hungry for blood, they receive help from Tobe whose family were slaughtered previously and is now dedicated to hunting down and killing vampires.

Darkness is a vampire film that was made by Leif Jonker, a director who was in his early twenties and living in Wichita, Kansas at the time. Jonker made the film in the early 1990s reputedly on a budget of $5000, using people around him as his cast and crew. The film obtained some reasonable write-ups in the genre press when it premiered in 1993. In 2006, Barrel Entertainment re-released Darkness on DVD, giving it a new digitally re-recorded soundtrack with this version being referred to as Darkness: The Vampire Version.

Leif Jonker shows that Darkness is no average amateur film from the opening moments – an hysterical girl seeks refuge in a gas station as the vampire appears and tears out the throat of someone in the forecourt outside, while in the background of the shot a downed victim gets back up from the dead. Jonker doesn’t flinch on the gore and the only thing that lets the sequence down is the amateurism of some of the performances. There is a fine subsequent scene where Gary Miller flees with his mother and sister in the car as the dawn comes, but it turns out they have been turned and start attacking him as he is driving, only to then be burned up in the sunlight.

Both the negative and the positive points of Darkness is that it has been construed around its gore sequences above all else. These are extremely gory – a vampire’s hand being chainsawed down to the bone; countless heads being blown off; a sequence where a mob of vampires pursue Christopher Owen Michael through the streets and tear him apart. Leif Jonker and makeup effects man Gary Miller (who is also the lead actor) let all stops go in a mass meltdown sequence of the vampires at the climax with them spouting greats gouts of blood, tearing their skins off, great pustules growing and bursting on their bodies, they coughing up bucketloads of blood, melting down to the skeleton and of course exploding. The film’s website proudly proclaims that Darkness has the most exploding heads in any movie and that it made the list of one of the goriest films ever made.

There is no plot hanging any of this together – just the various characters running around pursued by vampires. In fact, there doesn’t even seem to be any concerted effort to even kill the head vampire or prevent the plague from spreading. The cast are all teenagers and certainly none of them are particularly good actors – indeed, the lead vampire looks like a pimply teenager rather than someone exerting an influence of evil across the state. Luckily for the film, it has been designed to work in an entirely visceral capacity and is not dependent on the acting skills of its cast.

One would very much like to see what Leif Jonker could do with a decent budget and a script – he certainly shows promise here. It is a surprise that he was not snapped up by some low-budget production house. For some years now, Jonker has been promising another work called Demon Machine but has yet to make another film.

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