February 23, 2020

Dark Prism (2015)

Dark Prism may just be the most fun I’ve ever had clawing my eyes out in stark raving madness. The director, Dylan Mars Greenberg, acts as both a master of madness and curator for experiences you won’t find elsewhere.

Dark Prism - Internet Poster 2

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a true “experience” movie. You know the types of movie I’m referring to—Cannibal Holocaust, Salo, Pink Flamingos, Naked Lunch, Rubber. Movies that create major dividing lines; movies that draw you in with a word-of-mouth guarantee you won’t feel quite the same upon viewing; movies that are so downright bizarre you feel dirty for watching them, yet you smile slyly when your friend tells you “I’ve seen it all” and you eagerly pass the experience on to them like the cursed tape from Ringu.

Imagine if, by some wacky time loop, Kevin Smith of the ‘90s teamed up with present-day wake-and-bake Kevin Smith, and the duo found a functional way to combine their styles. That’s the tone of Dark Prism, and like Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, it only gets stranger once you’ve pressed ‘Play’ and tumbled down the rabbit hole.

The movie in itself is a fourth wall break. Well, it doesn’t technically “break” the fourth wall; rather, it begins with the marked absence of a fourth wall. An unidentified character awkwardly tells the viewer the movie hasn’t started yet, and when the credits begin and then falter, a non-diegetic voice complains they’ve broken again. While this is undoubtedly a nod to the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s also sets the tone in the same way as the inscription on Hell’s door: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The story is told in “books,” each focused on a character whose story ultimately ties into the bigger picture. While this may be a turnoff to viewers who prefer a straightforward narrative with clear-cut meaning, I found it refreshing (or, possibly, I was too enamored by the sideshow quality of it all to care). Each of these storylines include different allures, ranging from perverse Expressionism to ultra-trippy music video sequences. My favorite is near the beginning, when an awkward teen romance takes a sharp left turn into a scene with enough murder, dick-monster puppets, and buckets of blood to make you think you’re watching a GWAR show.

Dark Prism

Maybe there’s a deeper meaning to it all, or maybe it’s all just sound and fury for its own sake; Greenberg seems to understand it’s better to be vague and let the audience decide, and every viewer will probably tell their own version of what they just witnessed.

Be warned: you won’t walk away from this movie feeling clean. More likely, you’ll walk away feeling completely defiled yet, somehow, blissful—like the angry god of punk rock just stroked your cheek gently while ejaculating LSD and confetti into your eyes.

Dark Prism features Blondie’s keyboardist, Matt Katz-Bohen, platinum-selling Mac DeMarco, and adult film star Ophelia Rain.

The film also features the great Lloyd Kaufman, founder of Troma Entertainment and director of such middle-finger-to-Hollywood movies as The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘em High. Upon arriving safely in the credits, with my tray table up and seat belt engaged, it occurred to me the relevance of Kaufman’s presence went far beyond my overflowing barf bag and childlike giddiness. What this movie marks, in my mind, is a passing of the torch in the world of uncanny film making. Troma has been the granddaddy of disrupting media since ’74, inspiring countless imitations and even more critics, and although chances are slim the company will ever be dethroned, the wunderkind Greenberg sure gives them a run for their money. While “genius” may be a stretch, she’s got weirdness in spades and the sort of confidence many filmmakers would kill for.

If you’re sick of run-of-the-mill horror movies, or think you’ve seen all there is to be seen, plan a movie night with all your friends (because you’re going to want to see their reactions, believe me), and get ready for the weirdest experience you’ve had since waking up in Bangkok. Like with any balls-to-the-wall-crazy movie, you won’t forget about Dark Prism.

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