[Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival] New Horror Releases: The Dark Military (2017) - Reviewed

The Dark Military screened at JTIFF

The premise of Loren Lepre’s 2017 horror film, The Dark Military, is interesting, if not exactly fresh. A group of sadistic, militant killers is looking to make Halloween scary again. They attempt this by collecting people looking for fifteen minutes of fame, under the guise of a spooktacular, pay-per-view “survival” game, broadcast live on the internet on Halloween night. Little do the victims know, they’re not playing for fame and fortune, they’re playing for their lives. Sounds like a good time, right? Unfortunately, The Hunger Games and even Halloween: Resurrection were more successful using this plot device. Nearly every possible aspect of this film misses the mark, leaving the audience wondering if the last hour and half could have been better spent doing literally anything else.

While the budget is, of course, an issue in the production of a film like this, films with smaller budgets have done way more with practical effects, more successfully. There is violence in spades, yet the audience really only ever glimpses blood; an axe goes up, but it’s never seen coming back down. There are also pacing issues caused by cut scenes that check in on viewers, who are watching the horror unfold from the safety of their homes. While it’s understood what the intent is, like most other things in this film, it doesn’t really add much to the story. The film’s lighting, however, is well done. All of the scenes taking place outside at night are shot clearly, which, considering how little there is to see, could also be a detriment.

The actors in the film do their best with what they’ve got. And what they’ve got is a lot of clunky, semi-offensive dialogue. Nothing flows, and there is very little attempt to build any sort of connection between the characters and the audience. There is nothing deeper than the surface stereotype for a single character. The womanizer doesn’t have a hidden heart of gold, or deep secret; the quiet, shy girl isn’t a secret bad ass ready to defend herself; everything is exactly as it seems at first glance.

Lepre’s unfocused narrative is not aided by the multiple films he clearly gathered inspiration from, in fact, it creates a film that has no idea what it’s truly trying to be. What the audience ends up with is a mish-mash of tropes, all balled up together, at odds with each other. The lack of any redeeming character that the audience can root for, and the stilted, unnatural dialogue lessen the impact even more. Because of the lack of focus throughout the film, the big twist at the end falls completely flat. While the premise is rife with opportunities to do something cool or different, each one is missed and the end result is just not worth investing the time it takes to watch. 

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-Josie Stec