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  • Rev Horror

A Knife in the Dark

Dir. Joe Sherlock (2024)

A killer stalks a rich family in their mansion.

I'm a huge supporter of Joe Sherlock and the type of films he makes: fun, creative fare for the less discerning horror fan, not afraid to be irreverent or to refuse to take itself seriously in an industry that often seems too full of itself. His company, Skullface Astronaut, produces films by the dozens, generally coming out with several cheap and inventive films every single year and inundating the market with Sherlock's unique sense of humor and style. It's standard B-movie fare, very similar to the type of films that Troma is making today, but on a much lower budget, extremely under-produced level that gives it the same charm Troma used to have. I've already dedicated an entire day to Sherlock's films, but he's made so damn many since then, I decided to give it another go! Up first is A Knife in the Dark, a much more serious film about a rich family with a secret who is being stalked by a knife-wielding serial killer.

When the family patriarch is murdered in his bed by a masked killer, the family begins making funeral arrangements, calling family to their mansion from all around. The family is clearly not your average clan, however, as they sunbathe at night, wear nothing but black clothing, and... well, you probably get the drift. As the killer continues to hunt down the family's fortune, stored in digital currency throughout the house, the killings run rampant throughout the family and their new visitors. Starring Manos: The Hands of Fate's Jackey Neyman Jones, along with Skullface's usual cast of ne'er-do-wells, the film ratchets up the mystery of just who is behind these new killings.

Sherlock's films are never known for their stellar acting, as the characters are often (intentionally) wooden and stilted, but this one was surprisingly well done. The actors do well across the board, especially Stephanie Marie, Connor Sherlock, and Kate Schmidt, a refreshing change that actually manages to make the film more entertaining than Skullface's usual fare. It's a huge step forward for the company and Sherlock, and while I would hardly consider the film "mainstream," it has a much more intricate plot, and delivers it well, than most of his other movies. It's also much more reserved than his previous film: gone is the rampant nudity, the strange and meandering plot, and the random alien subtext that reared its head in nearly every film with his name on it. While this does take away some of the indie charm that has run throughout his filmography, A Knife in the Dark is a much more watchable and overall entertaining film than he's done before.

The gothy weirdness works like a charm for this film. Dark scenery (and dark wardrobe) help highlight the vampiric nature of the family in the film, and while it's a bit Hot Topic-ey at times, it's a nice, gothic departure from other films in the same substrata of indie horror. It's Joe Sherlock at his most restrained, and it works delightfully well. The slasher crossover themes are excellent, and though it doesn't follow many of the genre tropes, that's hardly a bad thing, and it's a nice subplot that helps increase the violence and adds healthily to the story. The film actually holds more in common with the Italian mystery/suspense thrillers, as indicated by its titular similarity with Lamberto Bava's cult classic A Blade in the Dark.

A Knife in the Dark is probably Sherlock's best film yet, despite its vast departure from his previous work. It's entertaining, darkly funny at times, and surprisingly well-developed. Fans of his regular filmography may not enjoy this one as much without the excessive titillation, frequent science fiction nods, or the overtly fantastic violence, but it's a fantastic film that is every bit on par with "better" indie horror. More Full Moon than Skullface Astronaut, it's a super fun watch and an excellent film. As a Sherlock fan who also loves movies in general, this one was a delight.

Who this movie is for: Indie horror lovers, Skullface Astronuts, Bitcoin millionaires

Bottom line: I'm a huge fan of Joe Sherlock, and this is arguably his "best" film yet. A taut mystery thriller with some excellent performances, A Knife in the Dark is an entertaining and fun ride through a vampiric family murder mystery. This one is streaming on Tubi now, and if you're one who enjoys the B-grade schlock that horror is built upon but demand a bit more plot development and acting chops, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

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