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Scarecrow on Seattle: DARKDRIVE

In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with the Seattle Office of Film + Music to bring you reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on how these films showcase the region's many filmable locations.

Darkdrive (1997)

From direct-to-home video one-man-genre factory Phillip J. Roth comes this low-budget multiple-reality mini-epic. Set in the near future, the plot deals with a computer prison where convicted criminals are incarcerated in a virtual-reality lockup. Ken Olandt stars as Steven Falcon, the smart guy who invented the device that makes the computer slammer work. He is employed by a company called Zicon and when somebody on the other side threatens to hack the system and allow everybody to escape, Falcon's bosses send him into the cyber-penitentiary to fix the problem.

Lots of things happen in Darkdrive: there are explosions, fires, shoot-outs, slow-motion foot chases, deadly energy bolts, people staring at old-fashioned computer graphics, and death by booby-trapped picnic basket. Unfortunately, the derivative plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense but the main reason you might want to take a look at this forgotten film is the use of the Seattle area for the movie's dystopian setting. It is actually a little surprising that Darkdrive was shot here, as most similar productions would have headed over the border into Canada. I think the choice of location is a result of Gian-Carlo (Shredder Orpheus) Scandiuzzi's involvement. Scandiuzzi is a longtime local who, these days, is probably best known for helping save the ACT Theatre as well as co-founding the Internet distribution company IndieFlix. He portrays Darkdrive's corporate villain and also served as one of the film's producers.

The filmmakers avoid any obvious "futuristic" Seattle locations like the Space Needle or the monorail and instead opt to utilize the more industrial parts of town, a choice that aesthetically corresponds to the film's grim futuristic setting. Much of Darkdrive seems to have been shot around both East and West Marginal Way as we see glimpses of the Boeing parking lot, steel mills, concrete plants, and other manufacturing locations near Harbor Island. Several scenes take place around the lower West Seattle Bridge (a.k.a. "the South Spokane Street Viaduct") with its cool, cement observation tower looming in the background. Falcon's home seems to exist just up the hill from the bridge as he has a lovely view of downtown Seattle and a bit of Harbor Island. Falcon and his wife (Julie Benz) have an ill-fated picnic at Hamilton Viewpoint Park, then the couple is reunited in the alternate reality world where Mrs. Falcon sings at a bar called Zeak's that I think might be portrayed the late, lamented Backstage. There's a shootout with futuristic pistols in the Seattle Underground and the film's final scene takes place in the Seattle Transit Tunnel's Pioneer Square station, which is enhanced with some colorful, whooshing optical effects. Seattle location fans will find a lot to enjoy in Darkdrive. Heck, the film's closing credits thank the historic Japanese restaurant Maneki for its sushi so it's clear the guys behind this movie know how to do the Jet City right.

-Spenser Hoyt

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