[Unnamed Footage Festival] New Horror Releases: Descent Into Darkness: My European Nightmare (2013) - Reviewed

Theatrical world premiere at UFF

Premiering next weekend at the Unnamed Footage Festival, Descent into Darkness: My European Nightmare is bound to raise some eyebrows. The film follows Eastern European TV Journalist Sorgoi Prakov as her searches for the “European Dream”, beginning in Paris, France. Before long, upbeat, friendly Prakov begins encountering some roadblocks, leading him down a path that is completely unexpected. The premise is new and different than countless other found footage style horror films, but this ends up acting as a disservice, as the viewer may find themselves wondering how the heck the adversity our hero faced in the film led to the conclusion.

The first half of the film is lighthearted and fun (the soundtrack is even slightly Borat-esque in these early scenes), and while Prakov, expertly played by Rafael Cherkaski, who also notches a directing credit, gets knocked down a few times, he seems to bounce back well, determined to document his experiences for his countrymen back home. He’s portrayed as a fun, affable man who may not always make the right decisions, but who is, for all intents and purposes, harmless. This makes the second half of the movie harder to digest. Yes, bad things happen, but none seem terrible enough to inspire the madness that follows.

One highlight of the film is the filming itself. Prakov comes to France equipped with a wearable rig that has cameras attached to film both his surroundings and himself. There are fantastic sweeping shots of monuments and tourists from his perspective, along with close-ups of Prakov, highlighting his narration and making the audience’s immersion into Sorgoi’s world easy. Shaky, hand held cameras are hardly used at all, which is a feat in and of itself in this sub-genre. The style of shooting is also effective later in the movie, where Prakov relies heavily on a single camera on a tripod to document his story.

While it’s obvious upon conclusion what writers Quentin Boeton, Simon-Pierre Boireau and Cherkaski were aiming for, I’m afraid the script just wasn’t strong enough to make it work. After a certain point, things just don’t make sense. Many films have succeeded in showing someone who has been pushed to their limits and turned into someone unrecognizable, but Descent into Darkness comes up short, and in turn, the final scenes are nothing but cringe inducing. Viewers may very well find themselves squirming in their seats or pinching their eyes shut, but not because they’re afraid, simply because they’re repulsed. 

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-Josie Stec