Dark Country marks the directorial debut of actor/comic-book publisher/horror enthusiast Thomas Jane (The Punisher, The Mist). It's a stylish neo-noir thriller that, although languidly paced, is a curious and engrossing little (88 minutes) film. It could best be described as Lost Highway enters The Twilight Zone.
After getting hitched to a blackjack dealer in an impromptu Vegas wedding, Dick (played by Jane) and his new bride Gina (Lauren German, Hostel II) are driving through the desert when they come upon a ghastly accident victim. The other car seems to be gone, but there's a barely-living victim – bloodied, broken, and missing most of his face. Dick and Gina put the stranger in the back seat, but their efforts to get help are hindered by bad cell reception and losing their way in the vast dark of the desert. When the injured man turns violent, Dick kills him and, in a panic, buries him in the desert. Then things get weird. Lynchian-weird.
Dark Country is about as noir as it gets. The first thing that draws you in is the highly stylized look of the film. Taking place at night, in the desert, everything's obscured by shadows, and illuminated by the surreal gold-blue-white light of a full moon. It gives the film a surreal, high-contrast look that's both dreamy and dreary. All the shots of Dick and Gina in the car are shot on green screen, which not only adds to the unreal setting, but also pays homage to B-movies of the 1940s and 50s.
The film has a few lulls, not uncommon in something so small and claustrophobic. Fortunately the strong acting and beautiful look carries one through. The "twist" ending is not terribly twisty, but it is a bit of a mindfuck.
Special features are sparse. A standard commentary track with Jane, writer Tab Murphy, and producer Patrick Aiello offers a mix of insider anecdotes, ruminations about method, and uninteresting chit-chat between the trio. The featurette, "Journey to Dark Country" is also what you would expect: talking head interviews from cast and crew interspersed with film clips and behind-the-scenes shots.
Dark Country is creepy, compelling and beautiful to look at – a rare treat for a direct-to-DVD film.