A few years back a pair of fraternal filmmakers called Shawn and Mike Rasmussen were fortunate enough to have their debut screenplay brought to the screen by John Carpenter. It was called The Ward, and if it doesn't quite compare to Mr. Carpenter's true classics of the horror genre, then at least it was a suitably creepy and well-cast thriller with a few cool twists. I'd be willing to bet that the Rasmussen brothers took every nickel they earned on The Ward and plunked it straight into their directorial debut. It didn't get many festival screenings and it will probably vanish once it hits the massive horror sections of Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon, but the Rasmussen brothers' Dark Feed is actually pretty damn solid.
No, the film doesn't have any actors you've heard of, and yes, Dark Feed has a premise that could easily be described as "basic," "familiar," or even "old hat" by now, but there's still a legitimate dose of quality on display here. You'll have to sit through about twenty minutes of slightly dry character set-up, but fortunately the actors are strong and (best of all) the location is absolutely, wonderfully creepy. Plot-wise, Dark Feed is not "about" much more than an indie film crew who are trying to shoot in a deserted old psychiatric hospital, but hey, who says that haunted house flicks have to be outrageously novel or original? Not me.
Although much of the cast is quite good, the star of Dark Feed is absolutely the crumbling old hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, And if it sounds like the producers of Dark Feed simply wanted to borrow something of the mood, tone, and oppressive atmosphere from Brad Anderson's (really excellent) Session 9, I see nothing wrong with that. It tells me the Rasmussen brothers are resourceful, smart, and influenced by some pretty solid horror films. But if you're a demanding horror geek who calls foul at a familiar story in, yes, a slightly familiar setting, you'd be missing out on some rather nifty horror once Dark Feed gets cooking.
The smartest part of the Rasmussen's screenplay is something that's not in there: the actual threat. It soon becomes clear that something truly insidious lives deep within this abandoned lunatic asylum, but we only see its presence by how it influences the characters. In other words, we don't see ghosts but we do see the producer go nuts and slice the sound guy to ribbons, and we do see the cinematographer flip out and hack the leading lady to bits. (These are not spoilers; I'm para-synopsizing.) Fortunately Dark Feed strikes a sweet balance between paranormal mysteriousness and plain old body-count viciousness, plus the film is creepily well-shot, set to a calm but effective score, and closes down with a fast-paced third act that probably would have played like gangbusters had Dark Feed opened in actual movie theaters.
Basically Dark Feed is a lot of stuff you've seen before, only here it's been re-heated and reconfigured into a crafty little creeper that actually works. Originality is overrated in horror movies, anyway.