Leave it to Sam Raimi to take lemons and make batshit crazy insane lemonade. Pulling a George Lucas, “Darkman” was once the efforts from Raimi to adapt “The Shadow” on the big screen. When that fell through, he created his own superhero, a demented horror oriented avenger named Darkman. And he’s about what you’d expect from the man who gave us Ashley Williams. Liam Neeson gives a very entertaining turn as Peyton Westlake, a scientist who becomes the unwitting victim of a mob scheme. After Peyton’s fiance Julie discovers a document that can incriminate her boss in his efforts to develop land over the deserted docks, Peyton is tortured by local mob boss Robert Durant’s gang and murdered.
Emerging horribly burnt, he’s presumed dead only to re-appear in a local hospital. The doctor’s have managed to cut off Peyton’s sense of pain, allowing him to live without suffering, but his lack of sensation is compensated by his body, granting him heightened agility, strength, and worse, bouts of rage.Peyton implements a plan of revenge using his top secret material that can allow him to mold human skin that can grant him a normal appearance only for ninety nine minutes before the light begins to melt it. Larry Drake lends the film a heightened sense of pure straight faced lunacy as the psychotic Durant, who has a penchant for collecting severed fingers. “Darkman” is obviously very demented and darkly comedic, turning our hero in to a very violent and vicious anti-hero often prone to giving in to the inexplicable bouts of rage that follow his survival.
Raimi’s direction is absolutely fantastic, providing a pulpy comic book atmosphere that would have worked wonders for an adaptation of “The Shadow.” Raimi uses stark bold shades of red and blue to accentuate emotion, all the while relying on incredible scene wipes to move the narrative along at a leisurely and respectable pace. Raimi revives the pulp hero, but only in his image, injecting the eerie stop motion and fantastic montages that allowed his “Evil Dead” films to be so darkly comedic and harrowing. Raimi unfolds a very exciting and often funny revenge film, and has a blast with the concept of Westlake’s chameleon-like technology that allows him to infiltrate Robert Durant’s gang and destroy it from the inside out. Sam Raimi’s “Darkman” thankfully hasn’t aged since its release; it’s a fun, gruesome, and original revenge picture for horror and pulp fans alike and it’s still criminally underrated.
The new edition from Scream Factory comes with an eight minute interview with star Liam Neeson, who has a good time recollecting his time on the film, and his work with Sam Raimi as the character. “The Name is Durant” with Larry Drake is a great sixteen minute interview with character actor veteran Larry Drake who discusses typecasting, and his enjoyment with working on “Darkman.” Makeup Designer Tony Gardner is interviewed in “The Face of Revenge,” exploring the film’s grotesque imagery, including our titular hero’s charred face.
“Henchmen Tales” is a thirteen minute look at the other bad guys and thugs in the film, and “Dark Design” details the production design interviewing Randy Ser. Frances McDorman gives an eleven minute interview discussing her acclaimed work with the Coen Brothers and Sam Raimi, as well as her past professions, which may astound some viewers. The six minute “Darkman Featurette,” and the nine minute Cast and Crew Interviews are original features from past DVD releases. The Audio Commentary features Director of Photography Bill Pope. and Michael Felsher both of whom provide some excellent anecdotes and tales about the making of the film, film in general, and the quite surreal special effects for the film.