By Paula R. Stiles
Dark Floors (2008). Director: Pete Riski. Cast: Skye Bennett, Noah Huntley, Dominique McElligott, Philip Bretherton, Ronald Pickup, Leon Herbert, William Hope, many Finnish extras from the band Lordi. Country: Finland.
A young man’s autistic daughter is in the hospital for tests when she freaks out and blows up the MRI machine. Her father decides to take her home, against the strenuous objections of a pesky nurse. When they all get into an elevator with some other strangers (the nurse still arguing), it stops between the sixth and seventh floors. Everybody ends up (or so they think) on the fifth floor, but it’s deserted. Pretty soon, weird things happen. Monsters appear and their goals are unpleasant. They want the girl – and then everybody else dies.
On paper, this has some intriguing elements. It’s directed and written by Finns for a Finnish rock band in Finland. The extras are the members of that band and the monster makeup is derived from their act. Haunted hospitals are usually creepy and getting off on a phantom “between” floor, though it’s been done a million times, can be a disturbing premise. As for the rock band angle, it may sound goofy, but Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal was surprisingly good.
Alas, this film is very derivative and very dull. For a start, this is a classic case of someone from a unique setting not writing what they know (Finland) in favor of what they have read or seen a lot (in this case, I’m guessing the worst of Syfy’s Saturday Night Specials). If you’re expecting a horror take on Finnish Noir or a Finnish version of Let the Right One In … ha, no. Dark Floors seems to be a deliberate attempt to appeal to the American market, since it is inexplicably written in English and the mostly-British actors employ ropey “American” accents. All of the characters are paper-thin cliches and all the actors unimpressive. I didn’t care about any of them.
For another, none of the above horror elements gets anything approaching an original treatment. Not one jump scare, creepy ghost in the glass, or “The lights went out when the monster showed up” worked. If you’re gonna kill everybody off, can’t they at least die visually or conceptually interesting deaths? Is that too much to ask? There’s far more grime than gore and none of it is interesting. And oh, my, I am so very tired of Wise Autistic Children Syndrome in horror films.
Then there are the plot and pacing. The pacing is glacial (and the film’s only 85 minutes long, too). This is not at all justified by any cool imagery, important character moments, pivotal twist, or heavy subtext. Let’s just say that the fact the little girl is autistic, but her main problem seems to be asthma so she has to be pushed around in a wheelchair everywhere at a lumbering gait, sums up what’s wrong with the pacing. As for the plot, it’s spaghetti thrown at the wall. Initially, they try to get off the floor to another one, but once they do, the plot stalls because nothing happens, except that they lose some characters and see stuff. Then they decide they have to go find the girl’s life-sustaining meds in the ER, even though you’d think the dad would have them with him. When they don’t find them, nothing happens and they just try to find a way out of the hospital. Or something.
The “twist,” such as it is, has something to do with a time loop, and characters who are probably trapped in some kind of scenario that was more interesting when it was called No Exit and Jean-Paul Sartre wrote it. I say, “Probably.” Did you notice that? Yeah, you know how endings are supposed to wrap things up or at least give you some kind of explanation to chew on? Don’t hold your breath with Dark Floors.
Watch this one if you insist, but I’m sure not recommending it. I think the only reason IFC aired it when they did was because they were having an Aliens marathon and two of the main actors in Dark Floors were in Alien 3.