Great films are all about High Concept. If you can’t boil it down to one sentence then the throbbing hordes of cinemagoers don’t want to know. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? Way too much going on there, and the audience avoided it in their droves. Snakes on a Plane? You couldn’t keep the bastards from beating the door down on opening day. To hell with ‘art’ and ‘craft’ the devil is in the detail, so strip all detail out and you are left with the purest gold of heavenly concept.
Now working on such a notion we could conclude that –
Budget ÷ Purity of Concept = Box Office Success
(Purity) is defined by the number of words in the simplest possible description of any feature (Concept). By extension, the lower the word count the proportionally greater the film will be in recouping its costs. The equation of course necessitates that there be a definite concept, for a film without a screenplay (Purity of Concept = Zero) in turn reaps no profit. Such films are generally known as art installations, and broadly speaking operate outside the parameters of conventional filmmaking. The only know demonstrable exception to this rule are the collected works of David Lynch, which defy all applicable theorems.
By considering such an equation Segal’s latest direct-to-video release Against the Dark should rate highly in the article of purity, with a concept defined as such:
Detractors would argue for alternatives such as ‘Seagal vs Zombies’, ‘Seagal kills Zombies’, or even ‘Seagal against Zombies’, yet the lower value holds true as the cinemagoer need only know that there is the presence of both Seagal and Zombies. How they are related or are involved is irrelevant beyond knowing they are both in the same film. As a result almost total purity of concept is achieved.
The irony that there is next to no Seagal or Zombies in this film has little or no bearing on its potential financial success. Concepts are like film titles, indicative of a features level of exploitation, which is to say the extent by which something is promised but not delivered. That this film should instead be about a gaggle of survivors with a dizzying mix of British and American accents running around an inescapable hospital intercut with sporadic shots of Seagal waddling to and fro, has little to no bearing on the films potential for financial success.
Indeed this film demonstrates in full effect the absolute minimum of Seagal you need in it for it to remain a ‘Seagal film’. It would be charitable even to consider this little more than a running cameo. Again and again he just bursts in, throws a few slices of his sword, makes a comment (not even a one-liner!) and then the scene ends. Rinse, repeat. Again and again and again.
The film then fails in having a budget which cannot afford to hire even its own producer for more than a day of shooting, this despite him being the headline star. With box office success (or in this case rental success) being relative to budget, Against the Dark will categorically fail regardless of the purity of concept. It fails almost completely (but unfortunately not wholly) to the point of non-existence. To all intent purposes this is a Non-film.
Pushing almost into the sphere of quantum physics, this film is much like Schroedinger’s Cat, existing while simultaneously not existing. In this respect the films of Steven Seagal may be a force unto themselves in this equation, and only further research will clarify this matter.