Dark August (1976)
Directed by: Martin Goldman
Written by: Carolyne Barry, J.J. Barry, Martin Goldman
Starring: Carolyne Barry, Frank Bongiorno, J.J. Barry, Kate McKeown, Kim Hunter, William Robertson
DARK AUGUST (1976)
Directed by Martin Goldman
Part of American Horror Project Vol. 2 from Arrow Video
38 year old city boy Sal (J.J. Barry) is cursed after accidentally hitting and killing a young girl whilst driving down a country lane. When he starts to get visits from a tall shrouded stranger, he thinks that the child’s grandfather is to blame and seeks help from a local witch who may be the only person who can help him.
When I first read the synopsis for DARK AUGUST, it had me interested. Here’s a film about a guy trying to fight his way free of a curse bestowed upon him by a grieving man – just imagine the sorts of things that could occur within a movie of that theme. Unfortunately, this film is less horror and more mediocre drama as lead character Sal vents his frustration out on other characters when he’s not being pursued by the mysterious spectre.
Outside of being stalked, Sal’s first real display of being cursed is when he struggles to breathe in a shop after buying a packet of cigarettes. He soon comes round from that event and thinks nothing more. The only real time any of the red stuff is introduced is when Sal is helping his friend saw a piece of wood. Distracted by the appearance of his shadowy stalker, he moves his hand away from the wood which results in his friend accidentally cutting himself. For a man that’s been cursed, I did expect more – possibly of The Omen variety, but these bouts of misfortune tend to be a small build up, causing Sal to slowly lose his mind. His friend Leslie reckons local white witch Adrianna (Kim Hunter) can be of assistance and that Sal should trust what she says but is she even capable to counteract the black magic at work in Sal’s life?
DARK AUGUST is not particularly a fun film to watch. Right from the opening scenes as we see the grandfather reading out an incantation, I could tell that this would be potentially be a lacklustre movie. The odd choice of camera angles, particularly the use of extreme close-ups, reminded me of films that are all style and no substance. The film appears to try too hard to be effective using these quirky shots, but it doesn’t need to. The better bits are those that employ traditional angles with the most interesting scenes those that contain more dialogue. A great example of this is when Lesley (Kate McKeown) tarot reads for Sal as she reluctantly translates the cards as she sees them.
Getting to feel for a character is one of the many ways a film can succeed but interestingly enough, Sal’s character is one that doesn’t muster up much sympathy. Though the accident is regrettable, he doesn’t seem to take accountability for his actions involving the death of the little girl. We see him talking to Theo (Frank Bongiorno) in the workshop about getting off at court yet the grandfather still staring at him wherever he goes. Sal’s negativity and bullish personality makes him a hard character to like although there is an element of wanting to see his curse lifted and resolved. Kim Hunter’s white witch Adrianna is just the remedy and she delightfully steals every scene she’s in, even if she’s oddly licking a baby’s forehead.
The ultimate resolution to DARK AUGUST was something I was looking forward to until I realised there was only 5 minutes to go before the end of the film. The resulting conclusion unfortunately felt a little weak even if it was unexpected. This is probably due to the lack of real cursed action throughout the film however the downward spiral of Sal’s life is actually handled well.
More leaning towards a supernatural thriller, DARK AUGUST does nothing to fluff up the horror credentials of Arrow Video’s AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOL. 2 but to give credit to Arrow Video, they do include some tasty extras which include interviews with the producer and director.