Reign in Darkness (2002)


Australia. 2002.


Directors/Screenplay/Producers – David Allen & Kel Dolen, Photography – Dennys Ilic, Music – John Clifford White, Digital Effects Supervisor – David Lawrence, Special Effects Supervisor – Clint Dodd, Production/Conceptual Design – Rapidfire Productions. Production Company – Rapidfire Productions


Kel Dolen (Michael Dorn), Chris Kerrison (Lance Bates), David No (Gage), John Barresi (Raphael Ravenscroft/Dr Pedro Swit), David Allen (Alex Shaw)


Michael Dorn is a virologist conducting research on the virus RKV-17, using homeless people as experimental subjects. His mysterious backers, known only as The Council, tell him that the virus might offer a cure for HIV. However, when one of the homeless people struggles, Michael ends up accidentally jabbing himself with a syringe containing the viral serum. The bounty hunter Lance, who works as hired muscle to the project, attempts to shoot Michael but Michael flees. On the run, Michael finds that he now has a constant need to devour blood and is turning into a vampire. At the same time, The Council hire Lance and the vampire crossbreed Gage to track down and eliminate him.

The Australian vampire movie has always been a variable affair. There was one interesting effort that never quite made it – Thirst (1979) – and two that definitely did not – Outback Vampires (1987) and Bloodlust (1992) – and the subsequent rather good Daybreakers (2009). Reign in Darkness did little to reverse the trend up to that point. The film appears to have been made on a very low-budget, although did enjoy a modestly successful worldwide video release. Multi-tasking directors/screenwriters Kel Dolen and David Allen also play two of the central characters – Dolen is the vampire hero on the run, while Allen is the supervisor of the lab who gets killed part way through.

Reign in Darkness is a vampire film that has clearly been construed in light of the success of The Matrix (1999). The entire film feels like a single Matrix-inspired pose – everybody is outfitted in black leather and vinyl, long black coats, shades, there are lots of posed slow-motion gunfights, martial arts scenes and sword and knife wavings. Dialogue seems to come in taunts, snarls and teeth-bared insults. It might have worked had there been a decent budget attached to the film. Without it however, it all seems a paper-thin pose that never amounts to anything more than posturing. Other vampire films like Blade II (2002) and Underworld (2003) have been far more successful at incorporating Matrix inspired poses than this.

While one appreciates Reign in Darkness was made on a very low budget (and must be commended for doing a great deal with it), there are times that the action come as cramped. This is most amusing when it comes to the car chases. Clearly, Allen and Dolen have managed to borrow the use of a couple of expensive cars for these scenes – although apparently with orders not to scratch them so that when one of the cars is shot at, it merely skids to a neat halt rather than crashes, while the explosions of the supposedly crashing cars are never shown.

Reign in Darkness has a good central premise – the idea of a new vampire on the run being hunted by assassins at the same time as he tries to understand his condition – all of which would make for a fine film some day. There is the glimmer of an original idea at the heart of the film – of vampires trying to develop a genetically-engineered cure for themselves as their lungs have not evolved to deal with pollution. Alas, the rest of Reign in Darkness tends to buy into what have become modern vampire movie cliches – the connection between vampirism and AIDS, secret vampiric cabals pulling the strings of power, genetically-engineered human-vampire crossbreeds.

Kel Dolen subsequently went solo to make the horror film The Gates of Hell (2008) and the action film John Doe: Vigilante (2014).

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