Darklight” (2004) ranks among the weirdest roles in Shiri Appleby’s oeuvre, as she plays a modern version of Lilith, a pure evil second woman from the Garden of Eden mythology. In this SyFy TV movie, Lilith – or “Elle,” before she learns her origin – is living as a young woman with amnesia about her demon life and a general sense of Nickelback-music-video malaise.
There are scattered moments when it’s cool to see “Roswell’s” Appleby be a sexy action star, like when she stands in the rain in a leather tank top and gestures with a finger for the opposing demon to come and get her.
And director Bill Platt – working from a screenplay he wrote with Chris Regina – delivers a prime example of Low-Budget Moviemaking 101. “Darklight” is filled with shots where Platt makes the best of the low budget, such as people reacting to sounds of the monster killing people. Admittedly, he’s good at the corner-cutting tricks.
We do see a fair amount of the Lilith-opposing monster, a male version that transforms from one of the church-based Lilith hunters played by David Hewlett. But it’s almost better when we don’t see the monsters, because they call to mind the giant praying mantis from the early “Buffy” episode “Teacher’s Pet” – blatantly obvious CGI. In a climactic fight between the two monsters, the rooftop and sky are also clearly created in a 2004 computer program.
It’s hard to say if Appleby is good or bad. She plays what the role asks of her, and it doesn’t take advantage of her cute charms. It’s amusing that she’s playing a badass action heroine. But as viewers, we can only contrast that with her other roles, not with anything in “Darklight” itself.
Elle has been living for three years as a morose – but non-murderous – human, so she can’t be all bad. After one scene where she tells her foster dad she’s thankful that he took her in, Elle doesn’t have any sweet moments. I guess that fits with the revelation that she’s supposedly evil at her core, but it’s not satisfying to watch.
“Darklight’s” cast also includes Richard Burgi (Season 1 of “24”) as a mentor who – more because of the screenplay than the acting – doesn’t have much chemistry with his charge. “Star Trek: The Next Generation’s” John de Lancie is also on hand as one of the church dudes who, in a convoluted and boring way, aims to get the two monsters to fight.
Appleby’s against-type performance is mildly interesting, but the potential for a decent monsters-and-action thriller is squandered starting at “Darklight’s” budget-approval stage.