DVD Review: Dark Circles

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dark circlesIt’s an exciting time of year, folks, and though it may come out at a different time every year, it’s been showing up for the last six years now. The annual block of releases from After Dark has begun, and our friends out at Lionsgate have sent out a copy of the first release of the year, “Dark Circles.” This one hits shelves May 21, so mark your calendars, because this is some truly fantastic stuff.

“Dark Circles” joins us with new parents Alex and Penny. It’s an important time in their lives, but it’s also a time that’s very, very short on sleep. Couple the recent childbirth with a move to a little house in the country, and that’s a recipe for even less sleep than normal. In fact, it’s starting to look like a downright dangerous level of sleep deprivation as Alex and Penny are starting to see things. Things they’d rather not see. Things that, in fact, look so dangerous and horrific that they’re starting to wonder if it’s the sleep deprivation that’s causing all this or there’s something much, much worse than a cranky baby in the house. The answer, of course, isn’t exactly what they were expecting.

In years past, when After Dark released in blocks of eight, there would usually be one bad one in the mix. One particularly rough year there were two, but that only happened once in five years. Therefore, even as good as After Dark releases generally are, there’s always that chance that we’re going to land one of the bad ones. Given the first five minutes of this one, though, that’s sort of a long shot to say the least. The first five minutes of “Dark Circles” are both atmospheric and intense all at the same time, some thoroughly weapons-grade horror. It’ll flatten out a bit, of course, and that’s a good thing, because it’ll allow for some better stuff to build later.

It’s hard not to be amazed by what’s going on here, really; that opening five minutes was just the start of some truly impressive stuff. Not only do we start big, we keep right on going big. It’s amazing just how much Alex and Penny can take before they start breaking down, and when they do, they do so spectacularly. I feel absolutely terrible for these people, and watching them is an oddly harrowing experience. Putting yourself in their shoes–which is shockingly easy to do–is actually much worse. Fair warning to those who have actually had a baby recently; this is probably going to be entirely too much. It’s powerful stuff as it is, and it really might be too much for those who can easily put themselves in Penny and Alex’s shoes. Actually finding out what was going on all this time is, oddly, a bit more disturbing for its sheer plausibility.

Special features, meanwhile, include an audio commentary track, your choice of English or Spanish subtitles, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailers for “Husk,” “Prowl,” “An American Haunting,” and promotional footage for FearNet and Epix.

“Dark Circles” is absolutely breathtaking horror, and does some amazing things with the most simple of concepts. A joy for any horror buff, superpowered and utterly believable, it’s too good to miss. If the rest of this year’s After Dark crop turns out half this good, 2013 is going to be the best year of After Dark ever.

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