Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So I’m doing my research for this here movie ‘Danika’ which stars one Regina Hall of ‘Scary Movie’ fame playing Evelyn, psychiatrist to the crazed vision seeing Danika, played by Marisa Tomei.  Now Regina is like the cutest thing, with big brown eyes, nice little figure, sexy set of lips… but anyways, it looks as if Ms. Hall’s house in need of some repair out Hollywood way, so she’s staying with Sanaa Lathan until the repairs are complete.  Oh to be a pizza delivery guy stumbling into a Penthouse Forum letter on that one.  I thought this would never happen to me, but I was out on my pizza delivery route when…  Of course all of those stories are lies, and my life generally sucks so I will continue to review Direct-to-Video movies like the surprisingly entertaining, though somewhat confusing ‘Danika’ from First Look Home entertainment.

As we have stated, Tomei plays Danika, the overprotective mother of three who begins to have strange, but very real visions about items ranging from the robbing of her bank, to pulling out the severed head of her daughter’s English teacher from a grocery bag.  What’s causing the visions we can’t be entirely clear.  Danika’s life seems pretty sweet with the picket fence in the suburbs, reasonably decent children, and a loving husband.  Other than the fact she does drive a fairly crappy old minivan, it seems that Danika hasn’t suffered any severe trauma.  Her husband (Craig Bierko) did used to diddle the nanny, but despite that slight lapse in judgment everything else in Danikas’ life seems fairly hunky dory, but the visions continue.

With no else to turn to, Danika begins talking to Evelyn the psychiatrist who attempts to help, but she too seems unable to make heads or tales of Danika’s visions.  It gets to the point that we, like Danika, don’t know what is real or what is imagined, that is until we get to the ‘twist’ at the end.

Working off of a script by first time scribe Joshua Leibner, director Ariel Vromen does one hell of a job creating an uneasy mood in which there seems to a constant sense of dread.  As the movie goes on it appears as though we are just on the precipice of something awful happening, and the director should be commended for having the skill to create such a foreboding atmosphere, considering that this isn’t even a horror film.  One of the things about ‘Danika’ in particular was that is was a very brief film, running at around seventy five minutes.  The one guy that actually reads this site knows that I’m not going to hate on a short movie, as I have said numerous times that a short feature with nothing in particular to say shows a lot of respect to the film watcher.  With that being said, it seems as if ‘Danika’ might have cooked it down a little bit too much as there was some confusion and some incoherence in some of the narrative that I’m certain was left on the cutting room floor.  In particular, there seemed to be story line with a neighbor played by James Avery that looked as if there was more to it, and the headless English teacher plot thread seemed as if there was something missing there as well.  I would be of the opinion that Danika probably could have used another 10 minutes or so of exposition, which still would have made the movie fairly compact, but might have cleared the air a little more.  Alas, in a movie such as this one, in which all of the little nuances are connected in some way, it may have made it even more confusing.

Marisa Tomei does a fine a job in the role of the tortured and terminally tired Danika, giving her character a sympathetic bent who only wants to preserve her family.  Considering that she’s in every single scene, this movie either flies or flops on her performance and she does well in the title role.  Regina Hall may seem a little too young and cute to be taken seriously as a psychiatrist, which they try to explain off, but actually the woman is 36 years old, so I guess a blessing becomes a curse when you want to do something outside of playing a ‘Scary Movie’ high school chick.  Then you have the prerequisite twist that we find in movies of this type, and though it’s not out of left field, it’s not too bad as these twist go.  I halfway figured out what was happening after the first scene however, and I’m not the brightest bulb in the box.

Even though it tends be a little convoluted and confusing at times, the mood of ‘Danika’ and the fine performances make one it of the more effective thrillers I’ve seen so far this early year, and as a Direct to Video release, it’s well worth the rental.

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