Cult Movies 101: Darkman

With the superhero genre becoming the standard in mainstream cinema, it is easy to forget one of the silver screens most obscure and dark superhero films, “Darkman.”

Directed by cult and mainstream darling, Sam Raimi. Shout factory has brought “Darkman” into the light with a new collector’s edition that is the definitive version for any fan of the cult classic. A new interview with Darkman himself, Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand and commentary with director of photography, Bill pope, are welcome goodies. Although the Blu Ray lacks Raimi voice in the extras, there is nothing quite like watching Liam Neeson exacting revenge on a group of criminals.

Released in 1990, “Darkman” follows Dr. Peyton Westlake (Neeson) is on the heels of making a huge breakthrough in the synthetic skin. His discovery is literally burnt to ash when gangsters burn his laboratory, forever scarring the good doctor. Scarred for life and his psyche broken, Westlake uses his scientific prowess to devise a plot to take apart the criminal organization that took away his life, brick by brick.

Westlake creates masks that last only 99 minutes to assume different entities to sabotage the gangsters and get the man behind he burning of his lab.

It would not be a superhero film without a love interest this role is filled by McDormand as Julie Hastings. Westlake desperately tries to salvage what humanity he has left by trying to reconnect with Hastings while juggling obtaining the revenge he so desperately yearns for.

Raimi’s original “Spider-Man” film is looked at as the gold standard of superhero films, watching “Darkman” it is clear that Raimi has always had an affinity for heroes and their journey.

“Darkman” may not be the prototypical hero, leaning more into the anti-hero category but there is no doubt if you are a fan of the genre this is a must own.

Neeson, two decades before becoming the modern day Charles Bronson, shows why Hollywood should have taken notice years ago. Not only bringing gravitas to the role, he is able to flip sides, going from the sweet in-love Westlake to the revenge/anger driven “Darkman” at the drop of a dime.

There is a reason why McDormand is an Oscar winner. Her and Neeson play off it each other so well, McDormand’s screen presence puts above being just the damsel in distress.

The humor and fun is what really makes “Darkman” shine bright. Raimi brings the tools he accumulated directing the cult classic “Evil Dead” series and applies them to the superhero genre. Over the top action and humor in the right places make Darkman’s revenge filled odyssey all the more fun to ride alone for.

It isn’t a Scream Factory collector’s edition without being wrapped in beautiful artwork and packed with great extras.

Although there is a huge Raimi-sized hole in the special features, new interviews with Neeson, McDormand and Larry Drake cannot be ignored. It is great to see both Neeson and McDormand; two actors, whose careers have gotten so big that people would probably look twice when they see “Darkman” in their filmography talk about this film. Neeson, 24 years after “Darkman” is now he go-to leading man when it comes to revenge films and this film shows exactly why.

“Darkman” is a great precursor to Raimi’s later great big budget work, it being his first tango with a studio film. It is a blend of the fun of the “Evil Dead” series blended with the storytelling of the first two “Spider-man” films. Seeing “Darkman” in beautiful HD and new special features make it hard to doubt Scream Factory when it comes to cult classic Collector’s Editions. This “Darkman” Collector’s Edition is not only the fans need, it is the one they deserve.

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