The teenage leader of a vampire cult in Kentucky was just sentenced
to die. He must be kicking himself right now. If only he hadnt
participated in sex rites, mutilated animals, drank human blood,
and instructed one of his followers to kill her parents, hed
be doing what all his other Goth friends are doing: scrimping
on black eyeliner to save for tickets to Dark City, director Alex
Proyas follow-up to The Crow.
Like The Crow, Dark City, as the title suggests, is cloaked in
black and peddles in paranoia. At the heart of the story is John
Murdoch (Rufus Sewell). His nemeses are the Strangers, a clan
of chalky white, bald men who favor bowlers and black overcoats
and who, in search of a means to sustain their dying group, practice
mind control on unwitting humans through what they call tubing.
Tubing works something like this: At the stroke of midnight, the
Strangers stop time and chatter their teeth in front of a large
clock, while a certain number of them hit the streets, where they
swap peoples memories through a large syringe and then mix and
match at will. So, as in one scene, the Strangers enter the ratty
apartment of a low-wage couple who are complaining about the hard
knocks of manual labor and with a wave of hand, put them to sleep.
When the couple wake up, they find themselves in a luxurious manse,
completely unaware of the change.
Murdoch, however, is not so lucky. When he comes to, he has almost
no memory at all, just flashes of a dark-haired woman and a beach
resort. Further, hes a suspect in a series of call-girl murders.
On his trail are Detective Bumstead (William Hurt), the torch-song-singing
wife he doesnt remember named Emma (Jennifer Connelly), and one
Dr. Scheber (Sutherland), a friend of the Strangers who is having
second thoughts about his alliance. Murdoch does have one thing
going for him he can tube just like the Strangers.
Keifer Sutherland surrounded by Strangers in Dark City.
Proyas film is inky, as if coming straight from the pages of
a comic book. He faithfully builds the mood through the set design
of gray, looming buildings, the score whose chief instrument is
a violin, and, of course, the characters. Sewell, with his round
eyes, high cheekbones, and dark curls that fall on his forehead,
is a figure cut straight from pulp stock, and as he dashes around
the dark city (the Strangers dont like light), he is often cornered
by the camera, blocked as if in a panel. The dame is appropriately
curvy, but Connelly cant really pull off sultry. The rube, Sutherland,
is a hunched, gasping figure, worked over by the Strangers, who
themselves possess a vulnerability that drives them to perform
their inhuman experiments. As the straight man, Hurt just seems
Proyas is very effective in getting his vision to translate to
film. Maybe too effective, as I started feeling rather drowsy
myself when the Strangers came to call on their subjects. But
this is a film for a specific target audience Marilyn Manson
fans and vampire killers.