Punk Druids rampage through South Wales in "Darklands," a bargain basement Brit horror pic that should soon be gracing video bins. Shackled by a lumbering lead in wannabe action hero Craig Fairbrass, and a bloodless script and budget ( $ 800,000), this first feature by Welsh writer-director Julian Richards --- funded half by London-based Metrodome Films and half by the Welsh lotto --- is a game attempt at genre cinema that's for fantasy geeks only. Pic is a step backward for Metrodome after its monster-on-an-oil-rig outing, "Proteus."

Punk Druids rampage through South Wales in “Darklands,” a bargain basement Brit horror pic that should soon be gracing video bins. Shackled by a lumbering lead in wannabe action hero Craig Fairbrass, and a bloodless script and budget ( $ 800,000), this first feature by Welsh writer-director Julian Richards — funded half by London-based Metrodome Films and half by the Welsh lotto — is a game attempt at genre cinema that’s for fantasy geeks only. Pic is a step backward for Metrodome after its monster-on-an-oil-rig outing, “Proteus.”

Slim plot, which recalls elements of “The Wicker Man” but is more a straight action-horror item, has hotshot reporter Frazer (Fairbrass, with a distracting Cockney accent) helping student journo Rachel (Rowena King) solve the mystery of her brother’s death. Main suspect is a Welsh cultural revivalist group, Regeneration, headed by businessman Keller (Jon Finch), and Frazer soon finds himself the target for a human sacrifice that the loonies believe will put the economically depressed region back on its feet.

National Film School grad Richards shows a basic grasp of the medium, but with an undeveloped script and dialogue composed almost entirely of cliches, he needed a stronger cast than the one assembled here and better production values to make the pic work as a piece of outlandish entertainment. (Color in the Super-16 blowup is especially unattractive.)

Though physically built, Fairbrass has yet to develop a likable screen persona, and there’s little chemistry between him and the far more talented King. The veteran Finch gives glimpses of the style needed for such fare; other supports are routine. Score by Metrodome regulars John Murphy and David Hughes crashes around in the action sequences and lilts attractively in the quieter moments.

Darklands

(BRITISH)

Production

A Metrodome Distribution release (in U.K.) of a Metrodome Films/Llunian Lliw Cyf production. (International sales: Victor Film Co., London.) Produced by Paul Brooks. Executive producers, Alan Martin, Peter Edwards. Directed, written by Julian Richards. Camera (Fujicolor), Zoran Djordjevic; editor, Mark Talbot-Butler; music, John Murphy, David Hughes; production design, Hayden Pearce; art direction, Frazer Pearce; costume design, Sheena Gunn; sound (Dolby SR), Richard Flynn, Tim Alban; line producer, Clive Waldron; second unit director, Chris Jones; second unit camera, Ian Salvage. Reviewed at Mr. Young's preview theater, London, Oct. 20, 1997. (Also in Fantasporto and Houston film festivals.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Frazer Truick ..... Craig Fairbrass Rachel Morris ..... Rowena King David Keller ..... Jon Finch Carver ..... David Duffy Dennis Cox ..... Roger Nott Salvy ..... Richard Lynch Becky ..... Nicola Branson Doctor Morgan ..... Beth Morris Det. Jarvis ..... William Thomas
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