I was lucky enough to screen a copy of Henry Weintraub’s previous effort Melvin not too terribly long ago. This introductory feature showed a great deal of promise for the young filmmaker who displayed a great love and knowledge of genre-film by crafting a pretty ridiculous piece of horror-comedy. Melvin showed that the filmmaker had a unique personality, even with all of its referencing and also showed an affection for style and visual panache. His followup The Darkest Corner of Paradise strips away that level of fun protection that coated Melvin and instead exposes a raw vulnerability and unrepentant revenge. The vengeance genre is one that has been explored time and time again, through the likes of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series and Chan Wook-Park’s own Vengeance Trilogy amongst some of the more favored films that epitomize this particular style of cinema. So, saying that The Darkest Corner of Paradise is not the most emblazoned piece of original thinking in cinema shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, for the piece of genre cinema that it is it remains highly engaging and thoroughly ‘entertaining’ in the only way that such a brutal piece of cinema could be.
Pete is a young man with a degree in accounting who is fresh out on his own in the world. Looking to grab his piece of the pie he sets out to put his degree to good use. Unfortunately, times are tough and the available jobs for him are relatively non-existent. He has no experience and he is young, thus few want to take a chance on such a risky prospect. So he sets off and eventually finds work at a hockey ring where he is put to work more as a janitor than a financial assistant. Cleaning and scrubbing after others, the only way he actually uses his degree is by counting down the drawer at the end of the night. One night after a particularly disgusting evening on the job Pete wanders home only to find a young woman bleeding and walking down the corridor of his hotel. He grabs the young woman and pulls her into his apartment, where the two share an intimate moment that gives light to the gray lifestyle that he has been forced into up until this point. This intimacy lasts only a moment before both Pete and the young woman are smashed over the head. When Pete awakens, his apartment is demolished and the girl is missing. The only thing he knows about this young woman is the tattoo she had upon her back. With no help from the police for a missing person with no name, Pete is on the search for this young woman and those who took her from him.
The atmosphere for The Darkest Corner of Paradise should be familiar for fans of independent cinema. It takes on a very arthouse vibe by using black and white photography with a very dreary soundtrack that takes full advantage of stringed instruments. The cinematography however helps to establish it amongst its peers because the visual strengths of the movie are so dominant. The use of depth with the grainy black and white give the movie a real texture and solidify it as something really special amongst its industrial counterparts. Fully evoking the work of Shinya Tsukamoto and Patrick Roddy’s independent hit from 2006 Mercy, the film is simply beautiful to look at. The visual experience for me was the most important part of the entire project. It kept me hooked and I really enjoyed the direction that it took as the movie went along. There is certainly a great deal of subtext and interesting character ideas and motivations at work as well, but I keep coming back to the beautiful use of camera movement and smart editing.
If Melvin was lovingly referential to the work of Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma studio, then The Darkest Corner of Paradise is a throwback to the film noir and more simplistic films that relied on atmosphere and cold calculating characters. The jump in projects and their content is pretty astounding and caught me off guard from the start. It is about as grand a departure in terms of style and content that you would hardly imagine the same filmmakers made both projects. Even leading man Patrick O’Driscoll looks different here. His maturity, like that of the project, shines through in each scene as he shows his ability to really sink himself inside of a character. The role of Pete may not call for a great range of emotional expression (but keeping with the film noir element, very few of those films had leading men who were anything other than the toughest tough guys on the planet), but O’Driskel shows a great deal of subtlety in attacking the role. His piercing eyes once again giving life and light to his character.
Without any doubt in my mind The Darkest Corner of Paradise is a major step up for this crew. Melvin was fun and showed promise for future comedy/horror endeavors but The Darkest Corner of Paradise shows a passion for cinema as an art form and the ability to craft real drama. I can not wait to see what this group gets up to next. If they make another step up in quality this huge, then there will be few things that this group won’t be able to tackle. You can read more news and information on this project at the official Facebook page for 531 Productions.