2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 23: Darkest Soul (1994)

DAY 23 — DEPT. OF INDUSTRY & LABOR: A story based on doing a job. Speaking of jobs, your psycho-gig ain’t finished yet, there’s still 8 days to go!

How obscure and hard-to-find is this second SOV entry on the joint resume of Doug Ulrich and Al Darago: this is the only image of the original VHS we could find — our thanks to the Letterboxd user who uploaded and preserved it.

Yes. The uploaded image we found is cut n’ cropped as seen — and we are grateful to have it.

Sigh . . the memories are flooding back . . . hitting the ol’ mom-and-pop video store (one of many that I member-haunted) sandwiched between a quickie market and Punjabi eatery with a gym on the corner bay next door to an insurance agency; a dinky-cheesy outlet stocked (an SOV honeyhole!) with way too many titles under the Shock-O-Rama banner, as the owner was stocking the shelves more for himself — god bless him — than his clientele, obviously. That store also carried Doug Ulrich and Al Darago’s first SOV entry, Scary Tales (1993), Snuff Kill (1997), and this, their second effort, Darkest Souls.

If you haven’t guessed from the cover: we’re dealing with grave robbing. Tommy and Mark are your typical slacker-losers who want the riches without the work. So they’re fired from gigs and job-hoping a lot, to finally bottom-out — literally — as grave diggers. As they come to realize they’re digging holes for rich people dripping in jewels, they resort to grave robbing. And like the tagline says: they find their “treasure.”

So, if I had to rate them: Snuff Kill is the best of the trio; as I said in my review of that film: it has the best acting and the film’s lead, Mark Williams, is effective. Then Scary Tales. Then Darkest Soul, which isn’t as O.T.T as Snuff Kill — and what film is — but it’s a well-written film that’s only undone by the script playing against-a-budget and has a nice Coscarelli-Morningside vibe. Then, again: I’m a guy who does tombstone rubbings and road tripped graveyards in my carefree days, so I dig stories about grave diggers. I enjoy the progression of the Doug Ulrich and Al Darago trilogy, as you watch them grow as filmmakers. Thus, Snuff Kill became their tour de force as result of all the things they learned from Scary Tales and Darkest Soul: Snuff Kill has the gooey gore of Scary Tales and the fleshed out story of Darkest Soul.

I have to admit that I lost touch with my inner SOV as I aged-out of the ’90s and home video outlets became gift shops and insurance offices — and even 501c3 bible-bangin’ outlets. Thus, I wasn’t aware that Doug and Al made a comeback of sorts with 7 Sins of the Vampire (2013), a film I discovered as I gathered my thoughts for my last October review of Snuff Kill.

The AGFA – American Genre Film Archive has released Darkest Soul on Blu-ray in 2020 as part of their Blu-ray release of Scary Tales. I’m a purest: I’ll always go for the VHS before a DVD or Blu. But it’s near impossible to find VHS copies — outside of grey or retro-repacks — of the original tapes. I still have Snuff Kill, lost Scary Tales to the blue screen of death, and only rented-and-watched Darkest Soul a few times — and never came across an errant cut-out-bin copy. So, thanks to the AFGA, you can get, not only Darkest Soul, but also Scary Tales, on one convenient disc. And it’s great to go home again — even if it’s a digital cheat, so for that AFGA and Vinegar Syndrome, we bow before your pseudo-VCR altars in eternal thanks.

Now, how about a Doug Ulrich and Al Darago four-pack? And — reissue-shingle executives — can I write the liner notes? Hey, I always go the shameless groveling route.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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