If you love spending your Saturday nights watching Syfy movies, then Dark Nemesis may be the film for you. Following in the genre of action/sci-fi fantasy, the film’s visuals are at times reminiscent of 300 (though no one is quite as buff or as naked as Gerard Butler’s Spartans) and at other times the old television series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (with the more modest Kevin Sorbo), even though it’s set in the future.
The opening credits establish that something apocalyptic (perhaps nuclear) has happened, cities have fallen into ruins, and the world has retrogressed into a feudal society of warlords fighting for land and wealth.
The film has an interesting structure in that the story starts with a warlord’s military adviser/soldier, Xan (Kyle Walsh), on the eve of battle. Xan is haunted by flashbacks to his childhood at the edge of the Shadowlands, the feared destruction zone that reportedly has monsters and seems to surround the ruins of a major city. What seems to be relatively simple backstory or character motif ultimately plays a more major role in the plot than expected, as not all of Xan’s actions are what they first seem. This shifting understanding of Xan’s motivations helps keep the film from simply being a lot of people running through the woods to escape both the warlord they have betrayed and the monster of Xan’s childhood memory.
Xan’s companions include his best friend Cal (Aaron Farb, evidently the most experienced film actor here, who has appeared as a minor character in several movies or TV show episodes, including Grimm, and as a main character in Operation: WASTE.LAND) – and by the end, the story’s focus has shifted from Xan to Cal and the masked ninja-like assassin Tana (Debra Lopez). All are well cast.
The film, known by several other titles including Ferocious and Dark Knight (as its listed on IMDB), is being released on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD and digital download by MTI Home Video in July 2012. The filmmaker Drew Maxwell comes from the tradition of making a lot of film for little money by doing it all – writing, directing, cinematography, editing, special effects – and one of his previous films, Carnivorous, has gained a decent reputation among fans of low budget horror. Dark Nemesis is reportedly shot for a much lower budget than that film, and the green screen work becomes obvious at times, with actors voices clearly being recorded indoors despite the exterior setting we see, and some of the effects less effective (the bridge, for example) than others (the opening scene’s fires, torches and smoky 300-esque setting). These are balanced by actual locations (forest, bunkers) and creature effects.
Maxwell is clearly ambitious and has been trying to make a film every year or two since 2005. One has to admire that perseverance, and this is a guy who definitely has ideas and loves genre. For that alone, his films are worth watching. Any weaknesses to his films may be more a result of him trying to do everything and not being able to fully devote all his energy and time to doing one thing (like directing or screenwriting or cinematography or editing) really really well. Dark Nemesis demonstrates that he has the kind of clear vision and ability to get good performances from his leads that would seem to make him a director with a lot of potential, especially if he finds good collaborators to help with or shoulder the screenwriting, cinematography and editing.
MTI’s packaging is handsome though its artwork does not exactly reflect the story content, making it seems more like a story of classic dragons, knights and castles. As you can tell from this review, the story is a bit more ambitious, though it will definitely appeal most to those who like sword-wielding heroes. If that’s you, welcome to the Shadowlands!
Dark Nemesis is available for purchase on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD and digital download on July 10, 2012.