DARK CITY. 1998. DIRECTED BY ALEX PROYAS. STARRING RUFUS SEWELL, KIEFER SUTHERLAND, WILLIAM HURT, RICHARD O’BRIEN, JENNIFER CONNELLY AND IAN RICHARDSON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Who are the tall, pale men in the dark hats and the long dark coats? And what do they want with John Murdoch? Come to that, why has John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) woken up naked in a bathroom he’s never seen before with a dead hooker- ditto- just a few feet away? These are the questions posed by DARK CITY, a not-bad-at-all sci-fi/horror film featuring something of an all-star cast.
Now, I’m by no means an authority on science fictiony-type films, so I like it when their plots are relatively uncomplicated and easy to follow. This was one such film. It turns out that the aforementioned tall, pale men- the Strangers- have somehow created a city of eternal night which they have peopled with regular human beings. Regular human beings whom they rounded up, presumably, from the real world.
The Pale Men, in their attempt to quantify and replicate the human soul, routinely put their human subjects to sleep and tinker about with their memories. They do this because they believe that experimenting with the human memory will provide them with the key they need to unlock the mysteries of the soul. Rufus Sewell tosses off a good one-liner in reference to this very thing towards the end of the film.
In a fiddly process known as ‘tuning,’ the Strangers, who are of course extra-terrestrials, replace peoples’ memories with other peoples’ memories just to see what will happen. A man who goes to sleep with one set of memories, for example, may wake up thinking he’s someone else entirely. Or I might go to sleep as ordinary little me and wake up as Angelina Jolie. Sigh. I wish. Anyway, that’s basically what these tall, bald rascals have been getting up to in their City Of Eternal Night. Capische…?
So, what’s the deal with this John Murdoch fellow? Well, he no more killed that dead hooker than you or I did (Well, I didn’t, anyway. I don’t know about you!), but the Pale Men think it might be a bit of a jolly old whizz to ‘imprint’ him with a serial killer’s memories to see if having a serial killer’s memories will make him act like a serial killer. It’s an experiment, see…? They’re mad into that, these boyos.
The Pale Men are not interested in John Murdoch merely to see how he reacts to the new set of memories, however. They need to get their hands on him because for some reason he can ‘tune’ like they can and this power he possesses can either be used to their detriment or benefit. Naturally they’d prefer the latter, so they’re eager to get him on their experimenting table and fiddle about with his memory-bank to see what’s what.
Kiefer Sutherland plays the nervous, reluctant human doctor they’ve lined up to do the fiddling. Jennifer Connelly plays John’s wife, although as everyones’ memories have been taken out and shuffled about like a deck of cards before being put back in willy-nilly, there’s some doubt in John’s mind as to whether or not they’re really spliced. William Hurt plays a blinder as the cynically drawling copper on the trail of the hooker-killer, and Ian Richardson is coldly brilliant as the stern leader of the Pale Men.
Oh, and cute-as-a-button Melissa George, who used to portray sweet little loved-up Angel in Australian soap opera HOME AND AWAY, plays a hooker who’s hoping to part John Murdoch from some of his dosh. But John Murdoch ain’t got no time for hookers, no-how. He’s too busy running from the Pale Men, but he can’t run forever and sooner or later he’s going to have to stand and face his destiny…
DARK CITY is a pretty good film. It livened up a dull Sunday night for me no end. I’m new enough to sci-fi/horror and this was a piece of cake to understand. Well, sort of. Give it a go, why don’t you, and then curl up in your bed for a good night’s rest? Hopefully, you’ll wake up all nice and refreshed, and with the same precious memories you went to sleep with. If you don’t, well, you’ll know what’s happened, won’t you…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: