Killtoberfest 1 – #11: The Dark Hours (Head Games)

In All, Movies by Kyu

Killtoberfest #11 is Canadian indie The Dark Hours, currently available on Netflix Instant.

I saw this because it was called The Dark Hours, which seemed like an interesting title to me… only to find that, like Sinister, it has nothing to do with anything in the movie (well, not really). It was originally called Head Games, and that’s much more fitting for what mostly boils down to a traditional, competent “characters held hostage by psychopath” movie. The movie was actually the lowest-grossing film of 2005, making $423, but it by no means deserved to. It’s one of those rare films that starts out okay and actually gets better as it goes along, with an ending twist that doesn’t ruin a thing.

The story concerns Dr. Samantha Goodman, a psychiatrist who works at a hospital. The movie opens with a neat scene as she examines a CAT scan, asking a colleague what he thinks of the brain’s tumor. Inoperable, he declares. Dead in a year. She doesn’t tell him it’s her scan. After she gets off work, she drives up to her boyfriend’s cabin, where he’s working on a book with her sister. The trio are interrupted by an intruder: Goodman’s former patient, a sociopath with an axe to grind, so to speak. He wants to play a game. So they play.

It’s one of those movies where the killer uses the hostage situation to get inside the characters’ heads, reveal their secrets and tear down their egos to facilitate character changes, and it’s a pretty decent one. (Amusingly, though, the killer is more polite in this one than usual. Canadians.) Nothing is unrealistic, and there are lots of neat little details that add specificity to the story. The “games” are pretty inventive, too–for example, the captives are given a phone number at random out of their address book to dial, but they only get to talk for three seconds. What do you do in that situation? The characters are pretty smart, and when they’re dumb they’re believably dumb.

As I said, the movie keeps getting better as it goes along; a somewhat slow, confusing start gives way to the chess match between Goodman and her patient, which in turn gives way to an interesting third act, which both examines some real moral and character choices and asks you to consider which part of your body you wouldn’t mind losing, and how. So it’s a nice blend of psychological and physical horror. I would definitely check this out if you’re looking for horror to stream on Netflix.