The meaning of cryptic prophesy splits apart a team of secretive guardians as they transport by 18-wheeler truck, a deadly creature and it's half-human sister from their now ineffective holding place to a more secure location. The sister's hidden agenda undermines the mission releasing the beast and they end up battling for the fate of the world when the true meaning of the prophesy is discovered in this mysterious and thrilling, action-packed creature feature
I love movies. Ever since I was small, I enjoyed what they had to offer. Good, bad, I have always tried to find something worth enjoying in every movie I see. Every now and again, I do experience a movie that has little if any redeemable value, but even then I’m reluctant to smear a movie, particularly if it’s the work of a first time writer and first time director. But with ‘Dark Haul’ - I really feel like I’m taking one for the team reviewing this movie on Blu-ray. This movie, at a brief 90 minutes, is a rough ride.
The movie opens in the late 1700’s. A man’s wife is set to give birth as a group of clerics enter the home. The man happens to be the thirteenth child and his wife is set to give birth to their thirteenth child falling in line with an ancient prophecy that foretells the birth of the devil or a demon, or beast or something that will ultimately lead to the destruction of man. The priests are unable to prevent the birth, and in a rather gruesomely entertaining birth sequence, the demon is born. Once the beast is captured, the priests discover another child in the husk of the woman’s corpse, a human-looking baby girl, only she is far from human.
Slingshot 300 years to modern times, and the Keepers as they call themselves are transporting the beast and his human-looking sister Zib, Evalena Marie, to their ancestral home on a mission to destroy the beast once and for all. Lead by Knicks, Tom Sizemore, and Damon, Rick Ravanello who frequently butt heads to prove who is right and wrong on this fight. Damon believes Zib is a force of good and Knicks knows deep down that she is no different than her brother.
When their convoy truck is overturned and the beast is unleashed, the small band of survivors must set aside their differences in order to live through the night. Or at least I think that’s what’s going on, I had to restart the movie a number of times just to get an idea of what the heck is happening and what the character’s motivations actually are - they kind of turn on a dime and make little sense. It’s also fairly difficult to care about characters that at their core are completely unlikable.
The premise itself isn’t all that bad, considering the beast has the ability to implant visions into people and make them kill each other - kind of a cool idea, but it just doesn’t go anywhere very interesting and ultimately feels like a missed opportunity. On top of an uneven plot is the abundant and laughably bad CGI creature effects of the beast. My Playstation 2 had better graphics. Remember the Scorpion King monster from ‘The Mummy Returns?’ Yeah, those two could have come from the same video game. Things do improve at the climax when practical creature and monster effects are used, but by that point the damage was done.
I’ll give credit to the actors for giving it their all, in particular Tom Sizemore. Sizemore is an actor that always brings real weight to any role, and given his recent troubled history, it’s nice to see him alive - let alone acting in a movie. But watching this, it made me want to pull out my Laserdisc copy of ‘The Relic’ to enjoy a good Tom Sizemore VS Beast movie. Valetta Marie is also pretty good as Zib, since you never quite know what side of the fence she’s on and her performance does help make the story a bit more interesting.
For a movie that aired on the SyFy Channel, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by the outcome of ‘Dark Haul.’ Presented here unrated, the only discernible difference I’ve been able to glean from the televised presentation and this one is that there is a lot more CGI blood added. Not that blood, gore and fake gunshot bursts really add anything to the movie. Like I said before, I hate to slam on a first time writer or director - I went to film school - I know making a movie of any length is tough work to do, but my empathy can’t keep me from being honest; this is a bad movie.
From the outset, this movie lacks exposition. Who people are, what they’re doing, and why was hardly explained at all. Are these Keepers part of a religious sect? Are they part of the Catholic Church like the hunters in ‘John Carpenter’s Vampires?’ Are they a government run and funded agency like the BIPD in ‘Hellboy’ since they have a lot of weapons and tech on hand? Doesn’t really get explained - and it isn’t like there needs to be much in the way of exposition, but a little would have gone a long way to making me care. Then there are the dime-turn character changes that don’t feel motivated let alone earned and only add to the confusion.
Yeah ‘Dark Haul’ is a bad movie, and unless you’re extremely curious about it, it’s one that I would suggest you avoid.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Dark Haul’ arrives on Blu-ray via Scream Factory on a Region A locked BD25 disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray case with dust sleeve that replicates the same artwork. Showing through the transparent case is artwork showing the main beast creature. The disc zips straight to the main menu without any previews for other films.
‘Dark Haul’ is given an okay 1.78:1 1080p presentation. Detail levels are pretty solid most of the time, but there is a frequent softness to the picture that appears to be part of the original digital elements and not so much of a transfer issue. Black levels are intermittently solid giving a nice sense of depth, and then other times contrast feels tweaked too high leading the image to feel flat. Also, there are several aerial shots that appear to have been shot with a GoPro or some small digital camera mounted on a personal drone. It's a cool shot, but there is a noticable difference in image quality and appearance. Since this movie takes place in winter, colors are appropriately drab, and have a nice pop to them if not slightly tinged towards red. Flesh tones are outright odd at times, Tom Sizemore in particular almost looks brown while other actors can appear either too pink or too pale for their own good - I’m not sure if that’s a transfer issue or a production side effect on the makeup side or not. Most of the time this movie looks okay on Blu-ray, but hardly anything special.
If ‘Dark Haul’ has one thing going for it, the DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track is pretty solid all around. Imaging is particularly nice. Some times the score can unfortunately drown out dialogue, but it’s usually during scenes where what people are saying aren’t too important. Most of the time sound effects and voices come through with good clarity and present a track that feels natural and even. Since it’s only a stereo track, all of the action rests on your front channels. Given its vintage, the lack of a proper surround track is a bit odd, but I can’t see how it could have improved things much. A decent audio track to complement this movie.
Original Trailer (HD 1:45): This trailer actually does a pretty good job of making the movie look good and interesting, but then comes the tagline “Family Can Be Hell” and you can't help but laugh a little more than you should.
I’m a pragmatist by nature. I rarely hold a hardline, "this way or that" on any particular topic as I’m apt to find the middle ground. ‘Dark Haul’ on the other hand is one of those movies that started out kind of cool and intriguing, but quickly goes bad and can’t quite make it’s way back to being something to recommend. It does have some pretty good performances from its principal cast, in particular Tom Sizemore, but then I’ve seen him in better movies and I’d rather watch any number of those before seeing this one again. I hate to say it, but given that the ultimately lame plot and the mediocre transfer outshine the decent audio efforts for this disc, I can’t help but suggest you skip ‘Dark Haul’ and find something else to watch. This is for people who are only really curious about the movie as there just isn’t anything much to recommend here.