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Darklands Review

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A journalist investigates a young man's death, convinced that he was involved in some sort of cult. But the evidence he finds pulls him deeper and deeper into weird rites of devil worship and even human sacrifice…

★★★★★

This Welsh-made debut from writer-director Richards earns points for tackling themes liable to make him extremely unpopular back home, even if it drops the ball too many times to work as the all-action, suspense-horror movie it would like to be. Those upset by Twin Town are likely to froth at the mouth with this, which suggests that Welsh nationalism is a pagan conspiracy founded on blood sacrifice and dedicated to restoring the country's industrial strength by murder and black magic.

Frazer Truick (Fairbrass), Welsh-born but brought up with a cockney accent, is a hard-drinking journo on a provincial paper, suckered by siren Rachel (King) into investigating the mysterious death of her steel-worker brother, which turns out to be linked with local politico David Keller (Finch). Frazer soon learns that almost everyone he trusts is part of the big taff conspiracy, and that nothing he has been told is the exact truth. Eventually, he winds up on the last train to London, in the film's creepiest scene, discovering that it's impossible to get away from your roots.

While the idea of industrial paganism is promising, this turns out to mean a cult who wave chainsaws and wear face-paint, together with a plot so clearly patterned on a specific early 1970s horror classic that it soon becomes obvious where it is headed. And Britain's own action hero Fairbrass isn't quite right for a role that asks him to spend more time running away from people than nutting them.

There's energy and strangeness at work here. It's refreshing to find a filmmaker willing to tackle 90s Britain in a plot-driven genre movie rather than a meandering whinge.