Fresh out of the shower, Alicia tosses her damp hair as she smiles at her reflection in the mirror. Before she can give herself a pep talk, a door creeks and slams shut. Someone is intruding into her home. She inches carefully to the door as her brain races fearfully to consider who the interloper could possibly be — she isn’t expecting company, and it’s too late for the mailman.
Anchored in the center of the hallway stands a man with dark wavy hair, a casually draped suit, and brooding eyes dead set on Alicia. “You’re a lot taller in real life,” he says. As Alicia questions him defensively, it becomes clear that this guy came here prepared with a fluent understanding in Alicia101. “Who sent you?” she asks. He responded with “If you don’t know your enemy, Sun Tzu says, you should not engage in battle.”
In quoting the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, the sinister intruder gives Alicia the first and final warning that stops her in her tracks. She knew this investigation she had recently started was treacherous, but she did not expect her own safety to be put on the line.
In the independent film Dark State, the villains commit much worse crimes than trespassing. They are a part of a large, underground scheme that quantifies its power by the number of people it controls. If you do what the network wants, you get a ticket to all of your hopes and dreams. But if you refuse to follow its orders, the Dark State will make an example out of you. This is what happened to aspiring actress Katie, who was forced into a car pre-programmed for a deadly crash. But the bad guys’ plan went wrong because Katie lived, and now it is up to her friend and journalist Alicia to expose this malicious team for who they really are, bringing them out from behind the shiny, manipulative curtain where they conspire.
There are layers that Alicia unfolds, and the eerie truths she finds within the male-dominated power spheres of politics and Hollywood. Women are often the ones who get either the short end of the stick, or have to work a lot harder to get any portion of the stick at all — the latter being the Dark State villains’ immoral oppressive mode of choice. In Dark State, those who long for their dream job must consider this dilemma, and forego any concerns about morality.
DARK STATE Tells A Story of Two Strong Women Who Want Success
To get a better understanding of the making of this chill-machine of a movie, this reviewer was able to share a few words with Constantine Maroulis and Nicholas Baroudi, who play two very different characters in the film. Maroulis plays a man with a dark spirit who preys on vulnerable dreamers in Hollywood, while Baroudi’s character is Alicia’s warm hearted and generous boss. According to them, director Tracy Lucca took this on as a passion project that she, like Alicia’s character, wanted to use to criticize the top of the money pyramid. Nodding to many of Alicia’s steadfast characteristics, Maroulis notes that Dark State isn’t only highlighting the strength of the rich and powerful. “There are some great female empowerment moments,” he says, “but there are some tales of how dangerous it can be out there for young people.” He then touched upon the eeriness of the scenes and described how the shooting location in the South Jersey Pine Barrens added an extra coating of creepiness. Baroudi says, “Director Tracy Lucca had this vision of the small town where she was from as a place to build a world around that makes it (akin to) a character (in the story).” Dreary and desolate, the stage for Dark State prepares us for a nail-biting plot that keeps us on the edge of our seats.
Both Maroulis and Baroudi believe that Dark State is commendable for calling out the corruption that still remains in the biggest industries and is a step forward in justice’s name. “There’s not much more you could be proud of than trying to be a part of a vehicle that can help break down these incredibly old, archaic, ridiculous barriers that women have faced in this country and in this industry,” Baroudi says, “it’s time for inclusion.”
If you are a fan of conspiracy theories or consider yourself to be a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, you will likely find this film to be right up your alley. Any thriller fan, who appreciates a side of chills up your spine with your burger, should look no further than Dark State to serve up some piping hot eighty-eight minutes of shocks, lies, and betrayals.
Tracy Lucca (Director), Steven Michael (Director of photography), Jay Weber (Production designer), Meg Timney (Costume designer), Justin Aguilar (Editor)
Nicholas Baroudi, Constantine Maroulis, K. O’Rourke, Katie Stahl, Melissa Connell, Greg Wood
About the Author: Abby Utley
Abby Utley writes as a method of truth-seeking. Getting to the bottom of things is her prerogative, and so is keeping her music playlists fresh. Although she puts originality at the forefront of her written pieces, she finds the most inspiration after immersing herself in other art forms. When she's not writing, you may find her at the rock climbing gym, where she may take a break thirty minutes into her workout to write a satirical article. Finding humor where one may not expect is another one of Abby's prerogatives that allows her to think out of that stingy ole box that so many adults find themselves trapped in. She thinks tapping back into a childlike imagination is something all writers should work towards.