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Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #313

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: 8 February 2008
Sub-Genre: Supernatural
Country of Origin: Finland
Budget: $4,300,000
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Pete Riski
Producer: Markus Selin
Screenplay: Pekka Lehtosaari
Story: Lordi, Pete Riski
Special Effects: Johanna Askola-Putaansuu
Visual Effects: Tuomo Hintikka, Lene Bruksås, Jim Udenberg
Cinematography: Jean-Noel Mustonen
Score: Ville Riippa
Editing: Antti Kulmala, Joona Louhivuori, Stefan Sundlof
Studios: The Icelandic FilmCompany, Kisi Production
Distributors: Solar Films, Nordisk Film
Stars: William Hope, Leon Herbert, Ronald Pickup, Philip Bretherton, Noah Huntley, Dominique McElligott, Skye Bennett, Lordi, Kita, Amen, Ox, Awa

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Lordi Beast Loose in Paradise

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It’s all about Eurovision. Any of you currently reading from the Western Hemisphere may require a little further enlightenment as to what the hell my opening statement actually means. Allow me to elaborate further. The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competition intended to unify the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union which has been running since the fifties. Each nation submits an entry, deemed the very best they have to offer, and the general public vote in their droves for a winner. It is commonly regarded as ridiculous in the extreme, the music itself is largely an embarrassment, and like Mark Hammill as Skywalker, careers are often ended as a result of having taken part. Back in the day it was actually regarded as prestigious before politics got involved and nowadays the whole thing is decided by votes for neighboring nations and the whole of Europe’s contempt for the British. Famous flag-bearers have included ABBA, Julio Iglesias, Céline Dion, Sandy Shaw, and…this ominous bunch.

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In 2006, Finnish rock outfit Lordi stunned everyone by bringing back the coveted prize to Scandinavia, giving countless dotty old ladies coronaries with their garish monster masks and expansive pyrotechnics, whilst offering their very best KISS rendition. Something evidently resonated and the whole of Europe were united in taking these petulant hellions to their hearts…for the next week or so at least. Finland had never before scooped the award and neither had such a melange of miscreations. They quickly capitalized on their fleeting prosperity and carved a name for themselves although global supremacy could not be achieved without first conquering the $8 billion strong horror film industry. Pete Riski’s Dark Floors is the direct result of their spearheaded attack on our sensibilities.

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You would be forgiven for presuming this an out-and-out slasher flick as each of the band-members in turn looks to make their presence known to a gaggle of unwitting stragglers holed up in a deserted hospital setting and it all seems cut-and-dried. However, for as much as the film was marketed as one big Lordi publicity stunt, Riski has entirely other ideas about where to pitch his movie. Recent remakes of Thir13en Ghosts and The House on Haunted Hill are clearly his motivation here and Dark Floors fits rather snugly within such confines. Should you have been enamored with either film then, chances are, you’ll find plenty here to stoke your furnace. However, if they felt just a tad powder puff, best keep on walking.

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The first thing that strikes you once the luxurious credits have rolled is the look of the thing. Hopes are preliminarily raised as it is effortless to deduce where the $4 million + was plundered. Setting entirely in a solitary building affords Riski the opportunity to create a formidable setting and bathe it in sterile light. He still has enough left in the kitty to recruit a reasonably adept clutch of American and British actors and suddenly we’re looking to invest. It’s not Emily Brontë; the two-dimensional characters bicker and squabble over which should be first to bite the bullet while the local vagabond masquerades before the white light of discontinuation directly before their eyes; and consist of a ring-leading security guard who puts the Iron Eagle in Louis Gosset Jr and, lo-and-behold, an obnoxious businessman. Wherever would we be without one of those to kill off?

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Still, the curiosity continues. As our motley crue are spewed out on a desolate floor which appears totally forsaken, supernatural elements come into play and it becomes apparent that the chair-bound autistic daughter of one of our saps is somehow connected to the dark force which pulses through the ward intermittently. Presumably Lordi are still applying make-up thus an ethereal spirit shrouded in flour is sent out to warm the crowd a little. Said group bicker some more, tempers fray, the odd fist flays, and poor little Emily is still no closer to being gifted the red crayon she’s spent the entire film pleading for. Meanwhile, in the nether reaches of flaming hell, Lordi have finally applied the last lick of war paint and are ready to burst onto the scene in a literal sense.

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This is where the wheels come off the trolley somewhat and Dark Floors threatens to career wildly off course and into a nearby medical store-room never to be seen again. I liken it to offering a starving man a whiff of your KFC bucket, only to inform him he is permitted solely to lick the excess batter off your fingertips. We never truly get fed and spend the remainder of the film wanting. It’s reasonably entertaining fare and is never quite culpable of losing its addressee entirely but a cool premise has long-since been frittered by the time it reaches its optically pleasing but soundly discombobulating encore. Like most concerts, we walk away scratching our heads at why our heroes were only on stage for the blink of an eye and a little dismayed that stage fright got the better of them in their critical moment to shine.

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Dark Floors is by no means an outright failure. What could so easily have been a one-note gimmick ends up at least trying something a little out-of-the-box and Riski deserves be commended on that alone if nothing else. Unfortunately, although a couple of instances do manage to irregulate our pulses momentarily, it all feels a little sterile. Whitewashed walls is one thing and a hospital setting always gets my corn on its cob; but I can’t help but feel bad for Lordi’s whitewashed dreams of grandeur. They’ve had their fifteen minutes of fame and, the fact that their entire screen time here amasses to less than that, means they may never get that chance again.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: More buffet than banquet; there’s precious little in the way of discernible grue and all we have to show for our 85 stretch is a heart plucked from its cavity and a vagrant who receives an elbow drop and ten rib kicks. The effects are well implemented but, like everything else with Dark Floors, it just feels a little too clinical. Maybe if it had embraced its madness more freely, then I’d be sitting here now marinading in red. Alas, my scrubs remain disappointingly immaculate.

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