DARK RED, THE
(director/writer: Dan Bush; screenwriter: Conal Byrne; cinematographer: Victoria K Warren; editor: Dan Bush; music: Ben Lovett; cast: April Billingsley (Sybil), Kelsey Scott (Dr. DeLuce), Conal Byrne (David Hollyfield), John Curran (William Holyfield), Rhoda Grifis (Rose Holyfield), Jill Jane Clements (Kathrine Warren), Bernard Setaro Clark (Dr. Morales), Celementine June SengStack (Young Sybil); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Joshua Wilcox/Dan Bush; Dark Sky Films; 2018)
“Twisty psychological thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Dan Bush (“The Vault”/”The Signal”) directs and is co-writer with Conal Byrne (also a co-star) of this slow-paced, incredulous and twisty psychological thriller about the possibility of demonic cults involved in snatching babies for their own nefarious reasons. It darkly reminds one of Roman Polanski’s classic horror tale Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
The heroine’s name is the same as the Sybil character from the 1976 film Sybil, where Sally Fields played someone who was an abused child and as a result as an adult suffered from a multiple personality disorder.
The tale begins in Cherokee County, Georgia, with Child Support Officer Katherine Warren (Jill Jane Cements) finding on a visit to a poor woman’s trailer home in the woods a mother lying dead on the bed and her three-year-old daughter Sybil (Celementine June SengStack) hiding in a toy box. Katherine reassures the frightened girl that she’s safe and takes her into custody for placement by the state.
We next see the adult Sybil (April Billingsley) at a psychiatric facility being questioned by her treating therapist Dr Jackie Deluce (Kelsey Scott) to determine whether she is fit to go free. Sybil is convinced her baby was stolen by a satanic cult, which the therapist finds hard to believe. Sybil tells the therapist of her fairy-tale marriage to the wealthy David Hollyfield (co-writer Conal Byrne), and about her baby son being (surgically) removed from her in a caesarean operation against her will by a female obstetrician who is part of the family of ‘bad people’ in on the kidnapping. They had her locked-up in this psychiatric facility. Deluce recognizes that her patient has a long history of mental problems, is delusional and she’s greatly upset because she’s still grieving the loss of her foster mom that happened at the same time of her pregnancy. Also, that she suffers from infant trauma due to her tragic childhood history. Therefore the shrink is skeptical of releasing her.
While flashbacks seem to support what Sybil is saying, we nevertheless wonder if they are products of her imagination. She tells us of her immense psychic powers she inherited from her bloodline that allows her to see through others.
If you are looking for a resolution, you’ll have to wait for the action-packed gory third act when Sybil goes on a bloody revenge and retribution trip.
Too much time was foolishly wasted during the long set-up in the first two acts and there was poor pacing throughout. What it has going for it is Billingsley’s dazzling horror pic star performance.
REVIEWED ON 3/4/2020 GRADE: B-