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| 19 July 2018 | Reply

Shock Entertainment, July 2018
Directed by Sam Raimi – Bradford May –
Starring Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels – Larry Drake, Arnold Vosloo, Kim Delaney – Jeff Fahey, Arnold Vosloo, Darlanne Fluegel
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
7 ½ – 5 ½ – 6 ½

After the runaway success of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II Sam Raimi wanted to make a superhero movie, but was unable to secure the rights to either Batman or The Shadow. Wanting to pay homage to cinema which influenced his own style such as Elephant Man and Phantom Of The Opera, he devised the story of Peyton Westlake, played in the first film by Liam Neeson. Westlake is a scientist working on a living skin substitute who is horribly disfigured after an altercation with property developer Louis Strack Jr (Colin Friels) and his mob boss enforcer Robert G Durant (Larry Drake).

Now with the ability to create plastic skin masks of his enemies, Westlake embarks on his revenge, which doesn’t stop him doing a little mild stalking of his girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand) along the way. Westlake’s artificial skin has one major flaw, though – it cannot last I sunlight for more than 99 minutes.

Featuring a bewildering combination of excellent special effects and cheap knock-offs, Darkman shows enough inventiveness and style to make it a worthy addition to any cult collection.

The same can’t really be said of its sequel though. Rehashing the plot in a stale fashion is one thing, but with Neeson not returning South African stage actor Arnold Vosloo chews the scenery annoyingly as Westlake. Durant returns from the dead in one of the more believable plot twists, but even Raimi staying on as Executive Producer can’t resurrect this one.

Darkman III fares better by changing tack, introducing sadistic Dr Bridget Thorn (Darlanne Fleugel), mistress to corrupt billionaire Peter Rooker (Jeff Fahey) and Rooker’s unhappy wife Angela (Roxann Dawson), for whom Darkman develops genuine feelings whilst masquerading as Rooker. It sounds more convoluted than it is, and it’s definitely an improvement over Darkman II.

Watched in quick succession it’s easy to see the cult appeal of the character – indeed, Marvel released a couple of comic series based on the character, and in 1992 a pilot episode was made for a TV series, but this was never picked up – and it must surely be a prime candidate for a reboot given today’s superhero-obsessed culture.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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