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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Monsters and goblins have never scared me. The unknown Ė the idea that something unseen is lurking out there Ė now thatís scary! Itís a fear that filmmaker Gary Irwin exploits nicely in Of Darkness, a 20-minute movie that is scarier than 90% of the big-budget, full-length horror movies of recent years.

The premise is simple: a bunch of middle-school aged boys gather together for a sleepover. One of them goes down into the basement and pulls out grandpaís creepy old devil book. (It looks similar to the one in the Evil Dead movies.) Wasnít your grandfather a Satan worshipper, one asks? Against better judgment, they open the book, accidentally unleashing a demonic force that terrorizes them for the rest of the night.

I know it sounds kind of familiar, but what Irwin does with it elevates the routine premise into something that eerily gets under your skin. The brilliance of Of Darkness is that we never see anything happen. The force of evil is represented by lights mysteriously going off. The characters know they are in danger when it gets dark inside the house. Creepy sound effects further create the impression that something is hiding in the shadows. One by one, the boys find themselves yanked into darkness. They kick, scream, and try to escape, but itís futile. We come to fear the extinguishing of light just as much as they do.

Too many horror movies today overdose on blood and gore. Not this one. Aside from a few brief bloody shots near the end, thereís no overt violence on display here. The terror is all psychological. I think thereís also something primal being tapped into. Adolescent boys, home alone, talking about scary stuff, getting freaked out by noises and flickers of light Ė who canít relate? Havenít we all become a little scared like this, as kids and as adults?

Of Darkness is well acted by its young cast. The cinematography is first-rate, and the sound design is even better. Everything combines to create a short, concise story that oozes atmosphere and dread. Irwin controls the tone masterfully.

The movie has screened at various film festivals, including the Eerie Horror Film Festival, the Rhode Island Horror Festival, and the Terror Film Festival. Gary Irwin tells me that he is working on his first feature. Based on this short film, I canít wait to see what he does with the horror genre.

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