Several years ago, a mental asylum was closed down when funding was pulled and the owner committed suicide after drowning his family in its swimming pool.

Now, in the present day, production manager Jess (Jessica Lauren Napier) deems the place an ideal setting to shoot a horror film.

Complete with an obligatorily obnoxious director, the motley film crew move into the dilapidated building and begin to set up their equipment among the damp walls and flickering lights.

On the first day of shooting, producer Harry (Jonathan Thomson) welcomes the script's writer, Chris (Andrew Rudick), onto the set. Chris is a little clumsy and nervous around the otherwise established crew, but still manages to find a mutual attraction with gofer Beth (Victoria Nugent) - herself new to the set, acting as a last-minute stand-in.

While the director spends most of his time being horrible to people, especially dim-witted blonde lead actress Rachel (Rebecca Whitehurst), Jess is asked to "babysit" Chris. This she does, with the help of Beth. They give him a guided tour of the asylum: the doctor's quarters were unorthodox experiments were said to have taken place on patients; the infamous pool that now lies empty save for rancid mould; the dark corridors that drip with black gunge. There are even a couple of Jay and Silent Bob-type practical jokers among the crew, who are on hand to spook our protagonists harmlessly along the way.

What they don't seem to see are the shadows that move ominously on the walls on occasion. And no-one stops to check out Rachel's claims that she was not alone when she took a solo trip in the asylum's lift. They don't even bat an eyelid when crew members start acting a little peculiar.

But, sure enough, there appears to be something malevolent within the hospital walls - something that's hell-bent on transforming its latest inhabitants into homicidal maniacs.

Can those who've yet to succumb to this madness-inducing terror survive the night and escape?

DARK FEED was written, produced and directed by brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen. They're the guys who wrote the screenplay for John Carpenter's comeback hit THE WARD.

First things first: despite that cover above, you can relax - this isn't a 'found footage' film, and there isn't any night cam employed.

That's not to say it's not hackneyed. It's one thing to have a film crew shooting in an abandoned asylum, but to then populate said crew with such clichéd characters really does propel this into seriously derivative territory. Add a low budget which often dictates a lack of editorial polish and some questionable performances, and we've pretty much nailed DARK FEED's shortcomings.

However, it would be wrong to dismiss the film due to that last paragraph. The three lead actors engage, the pace never flags and there are a couple of enjoyably memorable set-pieces (the tranny nurse being possibly the most unnerving).

The New England location is suitably spooky (it was also used by Martin Scorsese while filming SHUTTER ISLAND). The ambiguity over whether this is a ghost story, or a film about contamination, or possession, is also intriguing: I like a movie that provides food for thought.

Anchor Bay UK's DVD presents DARK FEED uncut in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is nicely handled, with solid blacks (a must in a film as dark as this) and decent detail. It's not a revelatory transfer, but I doubt it ever could be - what with the low budget and dimly lit shooting conditions.

English audio is presented in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both sounded fair to me: clean and clear, I passed on the latter after a short while, as it didn't really take advantage of its potential. The 2.0 track sufficed nicely.

An animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

We do get a few bonus features too:

2 minutes of audition footage featuring Rudick and Nugent shows you just how desperate actors can be.

They come across just as keen in the ensuing 13 minutes of rehearsal footage. You realise how ropy the performances are when seeing them rolled out without the context of the film (in this case, in front of a blackboard).

A 6-minute gag reel is based on set and is pretty agreeable fluff. You will find yourself smiling.

5 minutes of deleted scenes are interesting insofar as I reckon the bulk of them, often brief, would've benefitted the film had they made the final cut. There's a glimpse of a more confident Chris in his everyday environment; a little more explanation as to the film's theme; a few spooky shots of the asylum at rest ...

Finally, we get DARK FEED's original 98-second trailer.

Some may also find it worth me noting that the DVD comes in a keepcase, with an outer card casing which boasts a lenticular cover.

DARK FEED doesn't break new ground. It has its moments and its intentions are noble, but it's unlikely to be remembered as one of the great horror films of 2013. Still, if you're looking for undemanding 'check the boxes' thrills, this may just fit the bill.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
Region 2 PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
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