Five friends go camping on the rugged coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Things start to go seriously wrong while partying with two Australian surfers.
That’s a commonly used phrase when discussing things like eating habits or alcohol consumption.
I think this may be the first time I’ve brought this up when reviewing a film. But we’ll get to that in-depth breakdown shortly. First, let’s discuss the “story” of the new indie psychological thriller out of Canada – Dark Cove.
A group of five friends go on a camping trip to a secluded beach outside of Vancouver. They happen upon another group of campers – two Aussies who are there to surf and one very drunk Brit. They party, drink, do ‘shrooms, smoke pot and talk about sex. Then there’s an attempted rape and that is followed up with lots of violence. That pretty much sums it up.
Allow me a bit of leeway to discuss the three biggie problems which will justify my “everything in moderation” comment above. Then I’ll go into the myriad of other problems I had with this film. But I’ll just get this out of the way right now – there is nothing worthwhile in Dark Cove. Nothing.
The script is filled with some of the laziest writing I’ve ever encountered. I myself am a screenwriter, and while there are certainly appropriate times for using my favorite curse-word, “f**k”, I have never seen a film with such a gross over-use of this swear. If we all sat around a fire on some deserted beach, smoked some pot, put on Dark Cove as our evening screening, with the intent to have a drinking game – every time someone says “f**k”, you drink – we’d each be through our own six-pack within the first 3 minutes. I don’t know if it was ad-libbed or actually scripted (I’d like to give the film the benefit of the doubt that it was just what the actors came up with while filming), but the word lost all of its power, became laughable and honestly – distracting… not that I cared anyway. Moderation, folks.
On the topic of the script/story, I was flabbergasted at the lack of characterization and the offering of key character histories which were inexplicably saved until the last five minutes of the film. And the fact that nothing happened for the first 45 minutes of the film’s running time. Seriously, we were given exposition to justify the actions of one of the characters – during the last five minutes. Wouldn’t some hints as to his condition have been appropriate in the beginning – to possibly assist in building some tension? (There was no tension of any kind, by the way).
To go along with this glaring lack of history, we have no central character to follow or root for. And the intro to the three main male characters was so indulgent in “bro/bruh” douche-bag nonsense, I was immediately irritated and turned-off. I’m supposed to like these obvious posers?
And since it took so long for the film to get going, it’s an even bigger disappointment that the inciting incident is an attempted rape. Bravo. Original. Not at all over-used. And once again – using a terrible crime against women to spur action – especially since the female characters were so horribly under-drawn – is a failure. It’s like the filmmakers gave them no spirit or history to properly defend against such an heinous crime. That’s the even bigger shame.
The dialogue was also atrocious, with characters saying something and then the line being repeated by another character. And of course, I’ll again mention the lazy “f**k this”, “f**k that” and every other conceivable version of that curse. Sometimes the swear word was used multiple times… within the same sentence. Lazy.
The editing was awful. Strange, out-of-place cutaways for character reactions felt thrown in and numerous times; they would appear for a split-second – making you wonder why they were there to begin with. And this brings me to my second reason for “everything in moderation”. “Fade to black” is a phrase in screenwriting/filmmaking which generally is used to end a film. Certainly, there are exceptions and it can work for key moments in a film – even if it’s somewhere in the middle. Along with the constant barrage of “f**ks”, the film would fade to black – I would venture a guess – on at least 75% of the film’s transitions. I caution you; don’t add that frequent editing tool to your drinking game. Have you ever heard of alcohol poisoning? Exactly.
The acting is no good. There’s not one moment of genuine reaction or an attempt to gain sympathy from any of the characters. You’d think that with the blood-letting (within the core group of characters – they’re all in their mid-20s) and with all that is happening – that there would be some spark of actual terror, confusion, regret, anger, sadness – something – to garner some deeper and more authentic reactions from everyone. But no, based on the lackadaisical responses to the multiple murders – these characters have apparently all seen this before. No big whoop.
Now, if the shoe fits and I find it particularly annoying, I’ll pull out some seemingly inconsequential detail to harp upon. There’s an ax. It gets used. In one scene, three whacks into one person. The fact that the sound effect chosen was so awful and amateurish was not the problem. The fact that the exact same one was used in quick succession for all three strikes? That’s the issue. Would each and every thwack into someone’s body sound exactly the same? No. And as I’ve said before, if I’m picking on these tiniest of details, your film is in big trouble.
I know indie filmmaking means that producers, directors, etc. have to wear many hats to bring their vision to life – I would assume mostly to save a few bucks. But it boggles the mind that certain positions would not be hired out – to someone with some extra knowledge or expertise. I mean, you can’t be good or competent at everything film-related; can you? In this case, Rob Willey is on board for Dark Cove as actor, writer, director, producer, editor, sound mix, sound design, music and music editing. Spread yourself too thin, and apparently this is what your product ends up as – a ½ star review with a label of “avoid at all costs”. But even based on all that I saw in Dark Cove, I don’t see that Willey excels in any of these positions. I’ll borrow a phrase from an old episode of The Simpsons, “Can’t someone else do it?” and put my own brand on it, “Shouldn’t someone else do it?” A bit of judicious delegation would have been in order here.
And that final “everything in moderation” example? Within the first 19 minutes of the film’s running time, there were five music montages. Five. If that doesn’t scream “filler”, I don’t know what does. This film could easily have been a short.
And finally… the cardinal sin of Dark Cove – aside from everything else which fails? – it is just plain boring.
No matter how you rate its many individual pieces – the poor acting, the lazy writing or the uninspired premise – Dark Cove is a total waste of time. It’s now available on various VOD outlets.