"The plot and the structure of it and what the meaning is and what the events are representational of. I found that to be confusing. -- Thora Birch, in a recent interview about her latest film, Dark Corners. Oh, good. So it's not just me. Something of a cross between A Nightmare on Elm Street and Drew Barrymore's Doppelganger, Dark Corners, which is being released on DVD today, asks us to follow two parallel story threads, each of which stars a Birch character. In one of the stories, we get a character that I'll call Heaven Thora, who has honey-blonde hair and a handsome husband and leaves an upscale suburban home every day to go to a comfortably boring office job, where no one presumably bothers her with questions about what she's been up to since Ghost World. In the other story, we have Hell Thora, a big-haired, sluttily-dressed mortician's assistant who is inhabiting a nightmare world with a bunch of possessed demon-people who paw at windows and swipe at you with sharp instruments if you get too close.

Each Thora exists as a recurring dream for the other Thora, and this is a big problem for Heaven Thora, because she's currently battling through a high-class problem: she is subjecting herself to IVF treatments in order to conceive a child, and a recurring nightmare in which she's a member of Vixen is not in keeping with the doctor's orders to relax. To nip this problem in the bud, Heaven Thora visits a psychotherapist, played by British actor Toby Stephens. In an awkwardly written scene, he sits her down in front of a spinning crystal, putting her to sleep so that he can hypnotically suggest that she rid herself of the "dream me." Planting this suggestion causes Hell Thora to be set upon by the demon people, who stab her to death. The hypno-therapist then happily announces that Heaven Thora is now rid of her doppelganger, to which she quips: "I thought you guys always dragged this kind of thing out, to make extra money." I'm re-hashing all of this because it's more or less the last scene I can explain.

p>There's also a serial killer story woven into all of this -- director Ray Gower occasionally floats the camera by a television newscaster who talks about a murderer on the loose, and there's at least one scene where we see a young woman strapped to a table while a scary-looking guy unwraps a bunch of operating tools, but even with a gun to my head I couldn't tell you who he is or how he figures into the tale of two Thoras. Somewhere around the 90-minute mark, characters start morphing into other characters at the drop of a hat, so I don't think it much matters. In spite of all this, I think Dark Corners is recommendable to a certain kind of audience -- namely those who enjoy knock-offs of The First Power, where the whole environment is sort of demon-plagued and there are no real rules to guide you through the story. Thora Birch fans also might get a kick out of the film -- her flat, monotone voice gets a real workout since she's needed for nearly every scene.

Had Dark Corners actually been a little more experimental, I think it could have turned out to be something much more interesting. Since the filmmakers have gone through all the trouble to introduce the audience to two characters living in completely separate universes, why then spend so much energy trying to give the audience a reason for this or resolve the situation somehow? Is there really going to be an explanation that makes sense, anyway? Why not just show us two movies, side by side, with each Thora battling the forces of evil in her own unique way and don't attempt any co-mingling of the plotlines. Let each story stand on its own merits. Or at least, if they insist on going the story-mixing route, they should have Heaven Thora and Hell Thora eventually face off in an epic battle, to see who is the ultimate Thora. If they decide to make a sequel to this movie along those guidelines, I promise to see and review it. Let's call it Thora Throwdown: The Battle For Thorahood.

categories Features, Dvds, Cinematical