Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (2004)
By: Devon B. on April 1, 2013 | Comments
4 DVD | Region 2, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 144 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace Cover Art
Credits
Director: Garth Marenghi
Starring: Garth Marenghi, Todd Rivers, Liz Asher, Dean Learner
Screenplay: Garth Marenghi
Country: UK
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
I hadn't heard of Garth Marenghi before seeing Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, but a quick glance at his website may explain why. Marenghi isn't able to ship his books internationally due to copyright constraints, so his work may never have left England. Marenghi strikes me as a Shaun Hutson type of author, but while Hutson may be a writer of questionable talent, at least he's had the decency to not write, direct and star in a terrible TV show.

The history of Darkplace is far more interesting than the show itself. Marenghi and his publisher, Dean Learner, decided to make a television series and set about doing it with virtually no money and absolutely no technical knowledge. Accounts vary on how many episodes were shot, but over 40 episodes were made in about four weeks, the utmost example of quantity over quality. There is discussion that the production was cursed, with six deaths and three nervous breakdowns attributed to it. I don't know if the production was cursed, but any viewer that makes the mistake of watching the show certainly is. Unfortunately for Marenghi and Learner but fortunately for the viewing public, the Darkplace people hadn't been commissioned to make the show, so it remained largely unaired because no channel wanted it.

So, why is Darkplace making its debut now? There was a drought in television programming earlier in the decade, and Channel 4 made the horrendous decision to pull Darkplace from the vault. Learner had lost much of the footage, so six episodes were fleshed out with interviews with Marenghi, Learner and co-star Todd Rivers. Conspicuously absent from these new interviews is co-star Madeleine Wool, who the others say is missing and presumed dead, but I figure she is just hiding in embarrassment. The three participants discuss the show like it's the best thing produced since Shakespeare died, but the only nice thing I can say about Darkplace is that those involved have aged well since the early 80s.

The episodes, conceitedly referred to as "The Visions" on the DVD menu, all take place at Darkplace Hospital. Dr Rick Dagless is the world's best doctor, but also a warlock in recovery who opened the gates of Hell at Darkplace. Until he closes them (though I don't recall him ever actually doing anything to shut the gates) supernatural disturbances will continue to occur. Dagless has to balance his caseload while fighting beasts; Scottish spirits; and, most ridiculous of all, cosmic broccoli. Helping him out are his best friend Lucien Sanchez (Rivers) and a new, young doctor named Liz Asher (Wool). Marenghi also had the bright idea of casting Learner, a self-confessed non-actor, in a supporting role as the boss. I guess there have been worse ideas in the entertainment field, like when Madonna said, "Hey, 'American Pie' could do with a reimagining," but they would be few and far between.

Darkplace is painfully 80s, from the hair to the cheesy synth score, but despite being made in the horror genre's best decade, it's atrocious viewing. The show is so brimming with improbable happenings that even with the supernatural themes it seems farfetched, and each episode is really little more than Marenghi stroking his ego for 30 minutes at a time. In fact, the episodes could've been 30 minutes of Marenghi masturbating and the effect would've been much the same. This would've been preferable to the show as it is, because then Darkplace would be gay porn and I'd never have heard of it. The title wouldn't even have needed changing for that particular genre swap, and just think of the tagline: "He was a troubled warlock doctor, and the only way he could find release was when other men found his...DARKPLACE." Anyway, while that's the sort of adline that could keep Stephen Geoffreys employed, this version of Darkplace does not exist. In the one that does exist, Marenghi comes off as nothing more than a pretentious, self indulgent, highly prejudiced, out of touch idiot with way too much faith in his own meagre abilities. He's an arrogant weirdo who "dreams" rather than writes, is paranoid about the government and is less informed on science than someone who failed Kinder. He clearly thinks he's enlightened, but if the phrase "ignorant git" wasn't already coined, someone would've come up with it to describe Marenghi.

Darkplace's dialog is stilted, awkward and peppered with non-words; the writing is egregious; the slow motion is excessive to the point of being padding; and the show is overly self-conscious and self-aware. The special FX are some of the worst I've ever seen, with wires and monster suit zippers clearly visible most of the time. The editing is clumsy with virtually no regard paid to continuity, and the photography is always poorly framed. Marenghi's acting leaves a lot to be desired, but no one on the show is any good. Rivers is a twit who gives John Carradine a run in the pompous actor stakes. Wool is given little to work with from Marenghi's highly sexist scripts, but is nevertheless extremely stiff. The worst actor by far is Learner, who races through his lines, constantly looks at the camera, and emotes less effectively than Sharon Osbourne after her latest round of Botox. Marenghi claims he wanted Learner to bring not a performance but "truth" to his role, and the truth that he brought was that he has no place in front of a camera.

Marenghi blames the show's failure on it being radical and extreme, but it failed because it's poorly conceived and executed. Much of the blame for that falls on Marenghi, and even Learner says Marenghi lost control. Aside from unintentional laughs, Darkplace is good for nothing.
The Disc
Darkplace is a cheap television show made by morons that's nearly 25 years old, and it looks it. Expect heavy grain, tinted film stock, and all sorts of other flaws. The newer interview material looks fine, and everything is presented at 1.33:1, which would be the show's original ratio. The sound is even worse than the video. Improperly mixed and poorly synched, the audio makes the viewing experience very surreal.

In case you weren't sick of wasting your life on this drivel, the DVD offers a lot of extras. The DVD comes with a booklet with information on the show and Marenghi. There's also a storyboard to scene comparison for one scene, and more of Marenghi's pathetically scribbled storyboards for three other scenes. Five radio ads are here for listening displeasure. There's also about four minutes of home movies shot on the set by Marenghi's wife. Learner demanded massive reshoots because he changed his hair style during production, and you can take a look at some test footage to see the difference in his appearance. You may peruse the stills gallery, or watch the sole deleted scene. The song "One Track Lover" is included, taken off a test pressing, and the b-sides, Darkplace score tracks, are also included. There's more to come from these vapid performers, as you can also watch just over an hour of more of their interviews that weren't included in the show, both on and off topic. Last and very possibly least, each episode contains a commentary with Marenghi, Learner and Rivers. Rivers appears to have come to his senses and is no longer so fond of the show, and the others actually call him out for his wishy-washy attitude in a later commentary. The three sometimes get in fights, usually when one of the other two criticises the show's quality and Marenghi refuses to accept said criticism. Marenghi does admit early on that the performances stank, but then goes on the defensive from that point.

There're also a few eggs. Select the colour bars in the Set Up menu and these will segue into a promo for Channel Ladykiss, some footage of a patient reading Marenghi's books, and more interview clips with Rivers. There is also a much longer score track, found by going to Title 19. I couldn't get there any other way, and this score is a different feature than what's included on "One Track Lover."
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Darkplace did not make me want to import any of Marenghi's books. It should be a consolation that much of the footage is missing so the series should be done, but footage is missing from these six episodes and the interviews were included so they could go to air. This means that we may sadly be in for more episodes being restored.

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