The Dark Red

Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
The Dark Red Movie Poster Image
Tense psychological thriller has violent horror elements.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 101 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes include perseverance and overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles. However, the message of a strong woman taking matters into her own hands is tainted by her being forced to act out of character and go to extreme and violent measures because she is unable to trust those around her.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character Sybil is smart, strong, and determined. A child support officer is portrayed as caring and protective, while a psychiatrist is later seen to be kind but closed minded. Members of a cult are presented as cold and merciless. Characters who have mental health issues -- including schizophrenia and bipolar -- are referred to as "delusional" and "crazy."


A dead body is shown onscreen. There is a scene at a funeral and mention of the death of a parent. Guns are fired on numerous occasions and some characters are shot dead, with blood seen coming from their wounds. Characters are stabbed in the body and neck, with spurts of blood, as well as being hit and restrained. Instruments are shown cutting through flesh with bloodied gloves while a character is tied to a surgical table. There is a scene involving a blood transfusion and the consuming of raw human flesh. A child is locked inside a chest. There is the suggestion of suicide, and the mention of losing or having a baby stolen. A car is driven dangerously as a character is attacked.


Characters passionately kiss and caress in their underwear and there is the implication that sex has occurred.


Occasional language includes "f--k" and "f--king."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An unopened champagne bottle is shown and characters drink wine with a meal. Prescription drug bottles frequently in shot and pills taken regularly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dark Red is a gripping but tense and often violent horror movie about a woman who claims her baby was stolen by a cult. It has scenes of death and shows dead bodies on screen, as well as bloody wounds from shootings and stabbings, forced surgical procedures outside of a hospital environment, the aftermath of a presumed suicide, and characters consuming raw human flesh. There is some strong language including "f--k" and "f--king." Characters are seen kissing in their underwear with sex implied. There is also mention of mental health issues including schizophrenia and bipolar, and characters are referred to as "delusional" and "crazy." A large percentage of the movie takes place in a psychiatric ward and a character takes prescription drugs. At one point, a child is found shut in a chest and there is mention of the death of a mother and a funeral scene, as well as a passing reference made to divorce. Due to the adult themes and strong violence, the movie is not suitable for younger viewers.

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What's the story?

In THE DARK RED, Sybil Warren (April Billingsly) is confined to a psychiatric hospital after going through the trauma of "losing" her baby. However, Sybil is adamant that her baby was actually stolen from her by a cult that is determined to drain the infant of its special powers. Sybil must find a way to convince the hospital's Dr. Deluce (Kelsey Scott) that she is well enough to leave so she can locate the cult and save her baby.

Is it any good?

Though the framing device of psychological interviews with an unreliable narrator is a tried and tested formula, The Dark Red admirably holds your attention. Director Dan Bush adds his own finesse to create a slightly off-kilter feel to scenes, where memories can appear uncanny and red herrings toy with the narrative flow. Billingsly -- presented with the clichéd long cardigan and unkempt hair of every onscreen psychiatric patient -- makes the role her own and is both compelling and believable despite the seemingly outlandish story she spins.

It is a revenge story at heart, but that revenge is never taken further than necessary -- the violence is bloody, yet never gratuitous. The movie unravels in the tradition of a mystery as much as a thriller or horror. It is not entirely unpredictable, but summons a tense and, at times, frightening atmosphere that will see it chime with teenagers and adults who enjoy a dark, twisted tale.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Dark Red's violence. How did you react to it? Do you think the level of violence was appropriate/necessary for the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How scary is the movie? What's most scary about it? What's the appeal of scary movies?

  • How does the film portray therapy and the role of the psychiatrist within this?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love to be scared

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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