Absence of Light DVD review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by MVM Entertainment
Written, Directed and completely fucked up by Patrick Desmond
2006, Region 2 PAL, 77 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on February 7th, 2011
A bunch of really shitty actors
A bunch of famous horror actors
If there was ever a lesson on how you should never judge a book, or in this case a movie, by its cover, then this is it. Look at the cover for Absence of Light above. Looks pretty cool, doesn’t it? Gamers might see a glimpse of the Army of Two face shield in its ominous-looking combat mask. But no… very much, no. What hides behind that cover is something so utterly abysmal I almost want to recommend you see it to believe it.
Michael Berryman introduces Absence of Light
and bids a fond farewell to his career
Every evil software program should
feature spinning skulls
Despite featuring a significant handful of prominent cult-horror icons, Absence of Light can only be regarded as a clear low-point in any of the actors’ careers. To have names such as David Hess, Michael Berryman, Tom Savini, Tony Todd and Caroline Munro in your cast and still serve up a steaming bucket of monkey droppings defies belief.
I’m fully convinced that Patrick Desmond left the script-writing to an eight-year-old and the kid’s pitch for the opening scene went something like this: “Yeah, so there’s these bad guys and good guys right, and the good guys are called Division 8 and the bad guys are called Plague, and Plague decides it’s gonna kill the girlfriend of one of the Division 8 agents so this guy on a motorbike comes along and does an awesome endo right by the car, then his mate puts a bomb in the girl’s car and she drives off and they follow her but the Plague boss doesn’t want them to get their bikes damaged because they cost like $25,000 each (they’re custom) so they drive alongside her and pop wheelies and then shoot her with machine guns and when she’s dead they stop further up the road doing awesome endos again, and then they press the remote control and her car blows up, and another agent comes over the hill on his bike and he’s standing on the seat doing no-hands, but he has to stop because the car’s on fire so he does a sweet skid then drives off.”
Hello? It's David Hess,
I want to speak to my agent, NOW!
Random crew-member Dave could endo his bike
so they put it in the script.
At this point the eight-year-old had to go to the toilet as he’d had too many fizzy drinks and the caffeine was making him twitchy, but Desmond jumped at the chance to hire this aspiring and brilliant child prodigy to write the rest of the screenplay.
After the opening sequence, Tom Savini appears as the leader of Division 8, known as “The Higher Power”, and introduces his top agent, Puritan (a fat guy), to the recently-bereaved-of-partner-and-girlfriend, agent Sultan (he has a mullet). You see, it was Sultan’s chick that was assassinated by Plague operatives during their machine-gun motorbike stunt festival so now this shit’s personal, baby.
Dave isn't the only guy with
sweet bike skills though.
Criswell (left) and Puritan watch their chances of
ever working again fade into the distance
Savini’s a halfway decent actor, but set against the supporting cast of wooden dummies he’s elevated to the level of Sir Anthony Hopkins. Division 8 is as close as we get to the role of good guys in this movie, as they “fix problems” for prominent members of the government, for a fee of course. The Higher Power sends the agents on a new mission; to help a running senator recover a sex-tape that has been made of him with a prostitute. Senator Criswell and Puritan meet to discuss details of the deal, and luckily for the Senator – yet inexplicable for the audience – Puritan offers to do the deal at a discount, $300K instead of the normal $500K. The Senator is pretty sleazy and can’t keep it in his pants so maybe he racked up some loyalty points or something from all the previous jobs Division 8 did for him.
It turns out the sex-tape is in the possession of a homeless man, who plans to blackmail the Senator for $10,000. How do they know this? Well, Division 8 has some software called Devour that can monitor every phone line worldwide and perform voice matching on calls where they need information. It also has an interface that was designed in Microsoft Powerpoint 98. Armed with this information, Puritan and Sultan go off to see Q, the tech guy. Well he’s not actually called Q, but he fills exactly the same role as the gadget-guy from the Bond films. Instead of a bunch of kick-ass and dangerous concealed weapons, he hands over a silver case containing what appears to be a bunch of 1980s hand-held digital games. But no, these ARE kick-ass weapons and gadgets. The Tomytronic 3D is actually a sweet x-ray device, with Powerpoint interface, and the Donkey Kong Game and Watch is actually a tracking device with a built-in tazer (and yet another Powerpoint interface). Awesome.
Savini briefs Billy-Ray Sultan
on feeding his new partner.
Spy equipment, cunningly disguised
as children's toys.
Off the agents go, armed with handheld games, to find the homeless, blackmailing threat to the Senator’s career. As a distraction from the job at hand, they’re attacked by a bunch of Plague operatives and Sultan has a fight. Only one of the Plague guys stays, because he can do backflips, but Sultan punches him in the face until he backflips out to his evil buddies. They find the sex-tape hobo, of course, and bundle him off to be tortured until he gives up the whereabouts of the tape. And we’re only 20 minutes into the movie here folks, if you’re confused by now, try watching this shit. Actually, no, don’t do that.
The film carries on in a similar vein, and more horror icons start to spend time on screen. Caroline Munro fills some kind of role as an advisor to Division 8 and the agents, but adds very little to the plot. We also get Michael Berryman thrown into the mix. So if you’ve got a really distinguishable actor like Berryman you put him to good use, right? Like a sadistic torturer, or some kind of crazed mutant, right? Right? Wrong. Berryman is The Seer, a sort of strategic analyst who gets progress updates from Lard and Mullet and tells them what to do next. Way to waste your talent Mr Desmond.
About two-thirds of the way through the movie the Senator storyline falls by the wayside, but not before Plague tries, unsuccessfully, to blow him up. They manage to explode his office, but he was out doing sex stuff with some whores so they didn’t get him. He also gets Division 8 to kill his own wife and child. I don’t know why, I’d lost the will to live at this point.
Elite Intelligence delivered by
the Devour software.
Hey whores, I'm a sleazy senator so let's
go do some sex stuff.
For the next 20 or so minutes the film attempts to inject a sub-plot about Puritan’s involvement in Division 8 and what he sacrificed to be an agent. This largely involves turning to narration by the troubled operative, and a couple of dream sequences. First he dreams that a bunch of women from Division 8 are vampires and they all feed on him, then later on he has another dream that one of the women (not in vampire form this time) comes on to him but her head turns into an octopus that flies round the room then tries to bite his face off. I AM NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP.
Puritan’s troubled back-story is somehow meant to segue into yet another sub-plot about the Prometheus creatures. These have been genetically engineered by The Alchemist (Tony Todd) who used the Devour software to read the genetic code of every living creature on earth (see how awesome this software is?) and discover the key to creating life, which he calls The Philosopher’s Stone. Hey, this was written by an eight-year-old, there’s bound to be a Harry Potter reference at some point.
So with this Philosopher’s Stone he’s created a super-being that was brought to life by the magic of CGI. This is no ordinary, high-end CGI either. Every expense has been spared, and the animators created a brown, lumpy thing on their, circa 1992, 486 DX2 with 12MB Voodoo II graphics card that they bought off eBay. The first Prometheus is only six inches tall, and they keep it in a box with a skull on it. I guess the skull is to say that it’s dangerous but you could probably stamp on it and kill it. Unfortunately for Lard and Mullet, they stumble upon a warehouse at the same time as a bunch of Plague agents and the building is full of full-size Promethii for no apparent reason. A gun-battle with really shitty CGI monsters is sure to follow! And it does. Christ.
I’ve touched upon the main points of this festering dung heap, but nothing can really prepare you for the full-on onslaught of complete cinematic ineptitude on display here. Take my advice: Engage in a home vasectomy on yourself with rusty farm tools instead of watching this torturous, incoherent and completely ludicrous mess of a film. You’ll thank me for it.
CGI Beasts created by harnessing the
awesome power of MS Paint.
Caroline Munro has the intellignet look, yet
taking this part was the least intelligent thing she ever did.
Video and Audio:
I think Absence of Light was filmed on a mobile phone, or at least it looks that way. The DVD suffers horrendous interlacing issues, although you won't actually notice them due to the sheer shitfest you're watching. The condenser mic on the phone seems to have worked reasonably well and captured most of the wooden, badly delivered dialogue. Shame.
As if the film wasn't enough to sit through, the disc contains a bunch of special features where you can further marvel at people involved in the film saying how awesome it was. There's about two and a half minutes of bloopers, which are far more entertaining than the film itself, and some deleted scenes which can stay deleted as far as I'm concerned. In 'FX Secrets' some people explain how they had Tom Savini involved with the film and still managed to deliver a bunch of piss-poor practical effects. The 'making of' documentary explains how visual effects artists harnessed the power of Microsoft Paint to create wholly unconvincing backdrops to the lumpy brown videogame monsters in the film. Finally, there's a brief interview with Caroline Munro where the filmmakers clearly cornered her at a convention and forced her to say nice things about the movie at gunpoint.
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