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Ben Austwick [Celluloid 01.26.09] post apocalyptic movie review scifi

Year: 2006
Directors: Elio Quiroga
Writers: Elio Quiroga
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Amazon link: link (R2 DVD)
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 7 out of 10

Spanish post-apocalyptic thriller “The Dark Hour” is an understated piece of cinema that resists the temptation to indulge in distracting set pieces in favour of a dark and moody atmosphere. Why then director Elio Quioga felt the need to spoil the good work with an overblown final twist that would have been rejected by M Night Shyamalan is anyone’s guess.

Jesus is a boy on the cusp of adolescence living in a claustrophobic network of underground bunkers following a nuclear and biological holocaust, a surrogate family consisting of a handful of young adults and a slightly older teenage girl his only companions. This claustrophobic world is presented ambiguously, with cordoned-off areas of the bunker hinting at lurking danger, and strange black-and-white propaganda programmes about nuclear, biological and genetic warfare transmitted to the bunker’s television set turning what initially seems a pretty straight-forward set up into something more intriguing.

This is handled beautifully and there are some great details. At one point the television set shows archive footage of an old Soviet experiment into keeping a dog’s head alive once it has been separated from the body (the original footage is on youtube), with an added voiceover about the enemy building an army of dog-headed clones. This is clever and original film making that adds layers of plausibility to the basic set-up without diverting from the story. Other details, like an older member of the group seemingly being a Nazi concentration camp survivor, are intriguing and serve to increase your curiosity about the world “The Dark Hour” is set in.

Elements from the outside world creep into the bunker intermittently, and they aren’t nice – zombie victims of biological warfare threaten to spread their disease to the few remaining survivors, while in a very Latin magical realist touch strange heat-seeking ghosts mean spending nights at freezing temperatures while spirits rattle at locked doors. As these elements press down on the bunker’s inhabitants it becomes apparent that their position is untenable and something will have to give.

After a bit of thought the intrusive ending does sort of work, but that doesn’t stop it from being corny, clumsy and out of step with everything that precedes it. All the subtlety of the previous ninety minutes is sacrificed for the sake of an overdramatic twist, and it’s not even as if the film was running out of steam or heading down a dead end, the usual excuses for a bad ending. It is unfortunate that what is otherwise a great film is spoiled this way, but spoiled it is.

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cyberhal (13 years ago) Reply

i saw this film a while back and the ending threw me too. But after thinking about it a lot, i have to say i do like it, and I think it's consistent with the story (not going to say what it was either). It' didn't spoil the movie for me, but it was weird


quietearth (13 years ago) Reply

I loved the ending.. I think it's one of the best I've ever seen. This was a great little film. I agree with the 7 rating.


Daverat (13 years ago) Reply

I loved the ending & M Night Shyamalan wishes he could make a movie this good.


Ben Austwick (13 years ago) Reply

I thought there'd probably be people out there who liked the ending! A matter of taste perhaps but I think it belittled what came before it


Sylook (13 years ago) Reply

I liked the ending too. You never see it coming :-)


agentorange (13 years ago) Reply

This looks amazing.


Jeff (13 years ago) Reply

My Spidey-Sense missed this one...and even the invoking of M.Night! Looking forward to see what all the fuss is about. Thanks for the


agentorange (13 years ago) Reply

Awesome film. I'd say the ending was more of a reveal than a twist. It was effective, though I had a feeling through the whole thing that something like that was coming. For better or worse I think watching LOST has trained me to expect the unexpected.

Great review. I would agree with the 7 rating too.


spill.comer (12 years ago) Reply

I liked the ending but I was upset that I figured it out. I was told that it would be so suprising so I guess I spent the who time thinking of every ending possible and decided haphazardly on the right one.


rbk (10 years ago) Reply

Having finally watched it I'm not sure what all the fest buzz was about. Grant it, it's better than a lot of dreck out there and it had its moments but even without that dopey ending it was some mediocre stuff.


Darka (4 years ago) Reply

I went in knowing nothing and thus the ending was an utter shock and I know some people think it's this overblown twist but it's really not. Trying to avoid spoiling but I'm probably not going to be able to so
What hit me about the ending was how utterly bleak it made the movie and the question it brings- Is there a point in fighting to survive solely for survival's sake? For each moment of living, breathing when there is absolutely no future for mankind? In most other dystopian/zombie type movies there is always a hope that we can find a cure or outlast the awful and reclaim the earth so we fight for our lives and that tiny hopeful spark of a possible future for humanity, for our descendants. But there is no future here. None at all and you wonder why they teach the kids, why they fight and so that one conversation where the woman's like if/when the kids grow up and find out the truth they're going to hate us and the guy's like should we just kill the kids and then ourselves then is so much MORE. The art, the journals, what is the point with no future, does there need to be a future for these things to have a point. It's yeah, quite a little film.

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