By Sarah Musnicky
Isolation brings out the worst in others. Whether it’s their fear, rage, or insecurities, being away from everything you know summons deep-seated things that lie in the psyche. Throw in unresolved trauma, coupled with hints of abuse, and you have the recipe for some twisted exploration. Unfortunately, in DARK OBSESSION (2023), the potential under the surface is seldom explored. By the time a twist is let loose, the film’s plodding pace leaves its thrills too late.
Written by George Henry Horton and Blaine Morris, and directed by Horton, DARK OBSESSION focuses on Anne (Blaine Morris). As the film unfolds, hints of Anne's inner turmoil reveal themselves. Flashbacks show the devastation wrought by a miscarriage, leaving Anne hesitant to conceive again. Her husband leaves dramatically upon discovering she's been secretly taking birth control pills. His disappearance sparks these silent traumas to resurface.
A mysterious voice whispers to her, reflecting seemingly inner thoughts. Her husband's disappearance soon shifts into something abnormal. It appears he hasn't just left her. He leaves everyone behind. The journey it takes to get to this point and a third-act twist is an attempt at meditation. Meditative approaches require a solid hook to invest the viewer early on. DARK OBSESSION (2023) lacks the hook early on to convince its viewers to invest in its slowburn unraveling.
That's not to say there aren't positives. Blaine Morris's Anne is heartbreaking. There's enough for the character to deal with that could have led to potentially strong horror/thriller territory. Little is discussed in society about how traumatizing miscarriages can be and the natural isolation that comes with recovery. It's a topical taboo that is becoming more relevant, forcing much-needed discussions in the public sphere. As the initial catalyst early on in the story, on paper, Blaine Morris creates a strong jumping point for both herself as a writer and for Anne as a character.
Where the trouble comes is in the execution of her husband's departure. The acting oscillates between awkward and over-the-top. Coupled with a general lack of chemistry between Morris's Anne and Leonard Amoia's Henry, the dynamic presented fails to be believable. At least, not enough to explain away things that occur later on in DARK OBSESSION (2023). From here, the somber, slow-beating heart of the film aims to build a sense of ennui and mystery as Anne tries to move on.
Luis Jordan Lorenzo's camerawork creates a feeling of something else lurking around the corner. The usage of color helps to create some memorable shots, hinting at the further potential. There are editing choices made that also allude to Anne's state of mind. More exploration with these edits and experimentation in cinematography might have helped flesh out Anne's internal turmoil. At least enough to transition to the more high-octane third act.
The third act of DARK OBSESSION tries to compensate in tension and stakes. But going from a jog to a spring is a big ask and one that doesn't pay off in execution. A more finessed transition and build-up from Point A to Point B could have helped here. Another solution to help would have been playing around with levels rather than the legato tone of the film.
There's enough potential in DARK OBSESSION (2023) not to completely write off the efforts of George Henry Horton and Blaine Morris. Anne's internal struggles are read in Morris's performance, but a more refined story could have delivered something greater. The same can be said for performances that set the tone early on. First impressions can carry a lot of weight, and unfortunately, from early on, DARK OBSESSION fails to captivate.