Nothing from the banal title would suggest that "Dark Reel" would be worth your time, but this is a surprisingly skillful and well written horror film. There's a great cast and a smart script that is quirky and funny, and the central story is a strong one that continually keeps you guessing.
It centers on a low-budget film studio, and the behind the scenes stuff is a lot of fun. Lance Henriksen gives his best performance in years as a Roger Corman-like studio head. It's a part that refreshes his career and hopefully will awaken him from his B-movie funk. Also very good is Edward Furlong who also resurrects his career with a likable performance as a movie geek. His relationship with smart and sexy Tiffany Shepis is a treat, as it's fun watching the fan fall in love with his screen idol. They form a special bond that is the center of the picture, and it's a most unexpected pleasure.
The film is focused on the story, which is solid and well told, but this is a horror film and it doesn't spare the blood and gore. A few of the murders are pleasantly memorable. There is maybe one too many twists near the end, including one that hints at Furlong being the killer, and I was glad to see the film not go that route. I liked him and his character too much. He's a down to earth guy who is not unlike myself.
Unfortunately, it does go on a little long, especially in the finale, and it has trouble maintaining its pacing. The set-up, however, is a lot of fun mostly because of Henriksen's wonderfully offbeat performance and the uncommonly good script.
"Dark Reel" is a film unjustly robbed of a theatrical release as it was better than a lot of the horror films I paid to see this year. It deserves to be seen.