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The Dark

1993, Starring Stephen McHattie, Scott Wickware, Brion James, Desmond Campbell, Jaimz Woolvett, and Neve Campbell. Directed by Craig Pryce.

Second only to Straw Dogs type thrillers, giant rat movies are a staple of Canadian horror. This is the latest film in a long line of Canadian movies about oversized rodents, including such revered entries as Food of the Gods II and Deadly Eyes, which was directed by Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon, Gymkata). The Dark was directed by Craig Pryce, who had previously made the juvenile horror spoof Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter.

Our hero Hunter is drinking in a graveyard one night when suddenly he hears two cops fighting a giant rat. One is killed, and his partner Buckner starts randomly shooting his gun in rage. He accidently hits Hunter (in the shoulder, of course), and then he arrests him. While interrogating him about the possibility that he saw a giant rat, Buckner knocks Hunter to the ground and kicks him repeatedly. Although this sequence makes little sense and brings to mind many questions (Why is Hunter drinking in a graveyard? Why is a trained police officer unloading his pistol into the night? Why is a film about rats called The Dark?), Mr Pryce is apparently trying to establish that Buckner wants to kill the rat because it killed his partner.

But it's already "Two Years Later." Forget about Hunter for the moment, and meet young gravedigger Ed and his older co-worker. They are about to start a hard day of digging graves when they notice a gravestone that has sunk almost completely into the ground. Doing some more investigating, they discover that there is some kind of giant tunnel underneath the gravestones. This couldn't have anything to do with, say, giant rats who live in graveyards and attack cops, could it?

Hunter is also mysteriously drawn to this town. He is enjoying some coffee at "The Canary," a nearby greasy spoon, possibly thinking about rats. Or possibly thinking about the Tracy, the waitress who keeps smiling at him. She asks him so many questions that she ignores another customer. The cook in the back tells her to get to work, but the customer suggests her poor service may have something to do with the fact that she is a "bitch." This causes Hunter, defender of women and rats, to throw the customer through a plate glass door. Unfortunately, on the other side of that door are two bikers who happen to be friends of the rude customer and they apparently decide the best recourse is to go back in and shoot the cook and stab Hunter. Tracy responds by shooting the rude customer, and then shooting his friend's motorcycles, which explode in a huge fireball.

Tracy and Hunter escape to a local hotel room, realizing that they can never go back to their innocent lives. Our star-crossed lovers bond as Tracy spreads an odd smelling balm on Hunter's stab wound. After Hunter falls asleep, Tracy finds many of his notebooks filled with drawings and observations about giant rats. When Hunter awakens, they talk about saving the giant rat because it secretes magical healing balm and is possibly descended from dinosaurs. Naturally, all this talk excites them and causes Tracy to coo "You move real well for a guy who just got stabbed."

Back at the graveyard, it's about to get real busy. Two cops arrive to help the grave diggers explore the giant hole they have found. One of the cops, named Donovan, is played by Canadian actress Neve Campbell. Then Hunter and Tracy arrive. Then Buckner arrives. Then the rat arrives, dragging Donovan's partner down the hole.

To recap, Buckner is trying to kill the rat, Hunter is trying to save it. The others distract Buckner, so Hunter can initiate his not-so-brilliant plan: he gets in a coffin and the rat drags him down the hole (the rat lives in the graveyard so it can eat dead bodies). Then Hunter will burst forth from his coffin and spread giant healing rat balm over the whole world. But not before another character gets shot in the shoulder.

Not a bad little b-movie, The Dark has enough ridiculousness to keep you chuckling throughout the obvious plot holes. But it's obvious similarities to many other films, both Canadian and American, do not exactly make it stand apart from the crowd.

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