My notes on The Dark End of the Street, which is on US digital platforms.
On the one hand, this 70-minute feature from writer-director Kevin Tran has the restless, dissociative, ennervating, illuminating feel of those Gus Van Sant art films influenced by Bela Tarr or Mike Leigh … but it could as easily be a pilot for a soap opera about a cross-section of folks living on a quiet suburban street who all have their own issues and quirks and could easily spend a couple of seasons colliding with each other.
The hook is that someone (Rod Luzzi) is going around kicking pets to death. Hysterical, just-bereaved cat white owner Marney (Brooke Bloom) lets older, equally lonely African-American neighbour Ian (Anthony Chisholm) into her house to console her, and conversation – and neither character develops in stereotype ways. Relative newcomer Jim (Scott Friend) leaves his pregnant wife (Lindsay Burdge) to hook up with old friend Richard (Jim Parrack), who is slightly bullying in his defence of slackerdom – and they end up together with some of Richard’s pals, smoking weed and listening to music. An uptight husband (Daniel K. Isaac) is spooked by the pet murders, but his wife (Jennifer Kim) doesn’t want to hear too much about it. A bunch of kids skateboard, have a band practice, and generally hang out – Ian tends to distrust them and instinctively blames them for the misdeeds. No one really treats anyone else fairly, and a few climactic events involve unexpected collisions – but the night ends, and the kids get on with their lives while others cope with aftermaths.
It’s not a psycho-thriller, and the pet maniac is just a single strand of the pattern – what sparks here are tiny bits of character, illuminated in speeches, like Richard’s insistence on living without computer tech or Ian’s reminiscence about his own pet (a pitbull) who had to be put down after an encounter with a child in the street. It’s small and quiet, but haunting.
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