A family-in-peril psychodrama that teeters on the edge of being a quality indie exercise, "The Dark Hours" surmounts some of the problems of its weak dialogue through a commanding perf by lead Kate Greenhouse and some genre-style violence. Beyond fantasy-themed fests, feature looks like it will have its brightest hours on ancillary.

A family-in-peril psychodrama that teeters on the edge of being a quality indie exercise, “The Dark Hours” surmounts some of the problems of its weak dialogue through a commanding perf by lead Kate Greenhouse and some grisly, genre-style violence. Beyond fantasy-themed fests, this feature bow by Canuck TV director Paul Fox looks like it will have its brightest hours on ancillary.

Greenhouse plays 30-ish Dr. Sam Goodman, a shrink who specializes in violent sexual offenders at an icily minimalist Canadian institution. First seen coolly dealing with a disturbed patient (Bruce McFee), Goodman has more than a few problems of her own: a brain tumor that’s still growing, curious needle marks on her thigh and a marriage that has hit the sexual rocks.

Ordered to take a weekend off to spend time with her family, Sam meets up with hubby Dave (Gordon Currie) and her sister Melody (Iris Graham) at their remote cottage in the snowy hills. Relations between Sam and Dave are cool; those between Dave and Melody appear to be considerably hotter.

Half an hour in, the drama cranks up when a weirdo, Adrian (Dov Tiefenbach), shoots their dog and holds them up at gunpoint. But Adrian is simply the advance guard for the real psycho, Harlan Pyne (Aidan Devine), one of Sam’s former patients. Harlan, who kidnapped and raped a teenage boy, still remembers how Sam used him for some extreme medical tests, and now wants payback — in the form of some rather violent games.

Story has plenty of potential in the various tensions between all the characters, but for a drama that is more dialogue rather than action-driven the script is often way too obvious and explanatory. TV thesp Greenhouse comes off best as the doctor who stands up to Harlan’s psychological games but also has her own survival issues to deal with.

Less convincing is Devine, who refreshingly plays Harlan as a chummy, “normal” guy but without the necessary edge to make sense of his lapses into violence. This seriously undercuts any underlying tension throughout the pic.

Other actors are OK, and helmer Fox delivers a technically pro package with a suitably wintry look and tight editing (fade-outs and fade-ins chaptering the tale). Third act contains some neat cross-cutting and semi-Brechtian effects as the psychodrama gets down and dirty, plus a sequence involving the slicing of a member that is not for the squeamish. Ethereal music by E.C. Woodley is a plus.

The Dark Hours

Canada

Production

A Feature Film Project presentation of a Calder Road Films production. (International sales: Fabrication Films, Los Angeles ) Produced by Brent Barclay. Directed by Paul Fox. Screenplay, Wil Zmak .

Crew

Camera (color), Steve Cosens; editor, Marlo Miazga; music, E.C. Woodley; production designer, Aidan Leroux; costume designer, Joanna Syrokomla; sound (Dolby Digital), Brian Newby; sound designer, Daniel Pellerin; special effects co-ordinator, John La Foret; assistant directors, David Manion, George Jeffery. Reviewed at Puchon Fantastic Film Festival, South Korea, July 17, 2005. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Kate Greenhouse, Aidan Devine, Dov Tiefenbach, Iris Graham, Gordon Currie, David Calderisi, Bruce McFee, Jeff Seymour.
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