Director Mark Singer spent about three years working and living in the tunnels of NYC, where a group of homeless people squatted, sometimes for years. These people have set up makeshift shacks, complete with electricity, occasional "running water," decorations (one man paints "NO CRACK") on his doorway, and pets. For a group living in squalor and rats, they talk endlessly about keeping clean, eating properly (kosher restaurants are the cleanest!) and being safe. Theyre overall a smart, resilient bunch, and the movie has some very funny moments as well as more serious ones. Dark Days is fascinating, both for the stereotypes it confirms (drug use and mental illness are major players in the sad descent of the homeless) and refutes. Some of the characters become very memorable. One is Ralph, a middle-aged Puerto Rican, a former crack addict, with a soft-spoken, articulate demeanor. Ronnie, despite the obvious ravages of homelessness and drug addiction, still retains a kind of boyish, hustling charm as he describes all the money he makes from selling knickknacks on the side. Then there's Tommy, a runaway from an abusive family who if he cleaned up could be an Abercrombie and Fitch model. Dee is the only woman in the group, and one of the most memorable moments in the documentary is when Ralph tells Dee to quit smoking crack, and Dee points out that Ralph constantly smokes pot. "But all dope makes me do is like eat eat eat" says Ralph.
The DVD extras are almost better than the documentary itself, with 15 extra scenes that don't add much to the narrative of the story but are extremely entertaining and fun to watch. There's a happy ending that feels a bit tacked on, but also reflects Mark Singer's determination to save these people and get them above ground.