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Dark Heaven

Directed by Douglas Schulze

Written by Douglas Schulze

Starring Jon Bennett, Christina Sheldon, Jeff Beorger, Christopher Miller

Produced by Douglas Schulze, Julie Schulze, Kurt Eli Mayry

Rated R

87 minutes

I have to worry about a movie that starts off with a Bible quote, and yet can’t correctly cite the source it used (there is no book in the Bible called “mathew”, it’s “matthew.”). There are only sixty-six books in the thing; you’d figure someone could take the trouble to open the thing up and check to make sure they spelled the word correctly.

Are my worries founded? Well, yes and no…

There are certainly some solid features to Dark Heaven. The opening hour, especially. We have an excellent setup here. Yet, the last twenty minutes can’t seem to capitalize on its opening successes. Let me show you what I mean.

Now I’ll give them a lot of credit here. The beginning is nothing short of eerie, with a cop waking up in the middle of an abandoned precinct house to the sounds of an air raid siren. He then goes out to find the streets abandoned as well. It’s very “Omega Man” and I’m rather pleased with it. Very survival horror. You don’t see much of that any more and I’m glad for it.

And we can tell something serious is wrong with all this. Our cop finds abandoned buildings all over the place. In some cases, he even finds wallets loaded with cash in the middle of abandoned bars. Now that MEANS something, folks.

A radio announcement on a wrecked prison bus lays it out—there have been possibly millions of disappearances in the last several hours, and residents are advised to stay indoors in the wake of this unusual event.

Now, some of you are screaming “Holy flurking shnit, Video Store Guy! It’s the RAPTURE!” And I admit, right at this point here, I’m screaming it right along with you. We’re screaming it for a reason—that’s exactly what’s going on.

Or at least it sure seems that way.

A huge chunk of the populace is suddenly missing. People are wandering around with triangular marks on their foreheads and hands. Angels and demons are marauding the countryside for miles around and no one’s really too sure, the audience included, just what’s going on around here. Plus, there’s a great abundance of disturbing images, including our cop looking at himself, completely and very visibly naked, holding an empty handgun to his temple and screaming nonstop.

See what I mean? The opening hour of Dark Heaven is the unsettling intermingled with the alarming. Shocks and terror gently mixed to provide what should be a spine-tingling experience.

It’s the last twenty minutes or so that the problem kicks in.

The biggest problem with Dark Heaven is the last twenty minutes. While the movie is exciting throughout, but plays fast and loose with the Scriptural adaptation, the point of the movie is somewhat suspect. Basically we’ve just been following a cop around while he tries to piece together what’s going on. The ending is actually a surprise, albeit an OVERDONE surprise. It’s satisfying, but a little confusing. That’s the major problem here with Dark Heaven.

What exactly were they going for with it? Is this some kind of vague representation of the Apocalypse? Is it a rapture and tribulation allegory produced by someone OTHER than Cloud Ten Pictures, who seemed to have a corner on the market by making every Left Behind movie?

What is the POINT here??

Like the music over the ending credit crawl, the point just seems to kick in too late, and hesitantly, if at all.

But anyway, the extra features are limited to a director’s commentary and trailers for “Hallow’s End,” “Nightmare Boulevard,” and “Eyes of Fire.” Not a subtitle to be found, and this always saddens me.

All in all, Dark Heaven isn’t bad, but it isn’t terribly good, either. While it starts out abundantly well, setting itself up to be one of the finest movies of the year, it can’t seem to capitalize on its successes. It leaves the audience with a nonsensical, flat ending that could have done something truly impressive. Dark Heaven suffers badly from what might have been.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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