Plot: What’s it about?
Below the hustle and bustle of New York run the subway trains, through tunnel after tunnel of rails. But these tunnels are home to more than the trains, as some of New York’s homeless population has made it their home, at least for a while. You can see very little in the constant dark of the tunnel system, but there are people, makeshift houses, and in truth, a wide network of sorts. The people in their shanties exchange goods, stories, and hope with each other, although some also share fear and drugs, as well as other negative elements. Some of these people have constructed elaborate shelters, managed to find sources of power, and created somewhat stable lives for themselves, if one could put it that way. Although some have been in the tunnels for a short time, others have been inside them for years, but found ways to remain alive. So as this unusual community goes on as normal, a threat emerges that could send them back to the streets above, unless some help is found and on the double…
I’ve seen more than a couple documentaries on the homeless, but none have been as powerful and memorable as Dark Days. I suppose the setting has a lot to do with this, as the people here live in a network of other homeless folks in the subway tunnels, as opposed to living in boxes on the streets on such. Since these people live in the tunnels, they interact with each other a lot and form the networks I mentioned, very interesting stuff. Yes, this is sometimes tragic material as these people reveal the paths they took to end up there, but it is well handled and balanced with humor, to keep it all in perspective. The stories are something else to listen to and often have common themes, which means it is easy to relate to these people, some of whom battled drugs and others who left behind abusive households. This piece never makes them out to be victims however, it simply presents the person and the story, then allows that information to speak for itself. This approach pays off in spades if you ask me, especially due to the nature of the participants. I more than recommend Dark Days to those interested, especially with this great disc from Palm Pictures.
Video: How does it look?
Dark Days is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As this was a very low budget project with lower end equipment, the image is not too impressive, but as good as could be expected in this case. The tunnels are dark and that means some murkiness, including some scenes were no detail at all is evident, just black swirls. But most of the shots look good and provide more than enough visual detail, so I won’t complain too much. I saw some grain and print wear also, but as far as this material goes, I doubt anyone will be let down.
Audio: How does it sound?
I had minimal hopes for the included Dolby Digital 5.1 option, but it sounds terrific and enhances the experience more than a little. I was surprised by how active the track is, I heard a lot of surround use and effective use at that, from train noises to various more subtle effects. The atmosphere is richer than expected thanks to this audio track, so I commend whoever did the mix, as it is a very good one. The dialogue is never lost in the process however, so all the vocals come through here and loud and clear, as intended. This disc also includes a 2.0 option, in case that better suits your home theater needs.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I was pleased to find a lot of bonus materials included here, such as an audio commentary with director Marc Singer. Although Singer makes a lot of insightful comments here, he also leaves a great amount of time silent, which sort of lowers the session’s worth. Even so, I am glad I listened to his thoughts within the session, but I do wish he was more focused and spoke more, instead of just watching the flick. You can also view The Making of Dark Days, a forty-five minute behind the scenes look at the production. A documentary on a documentary might seem odd, but this is a terrific piece, loaded with insightful interviews and such. This disc also includes a selection of deleted scenes, talent files, text updates on people from the feature, a history of the NY subway tunnel system, and the film’s theatrical trailer.