Monday, 16 May 2016

The Darkness



Five Little Indians

The Darkness
2016 USA Directed by Greg McLean
UK cinema release print.


Okay. Yeah... kinda liked this one.

The Darkness is one of those entertainments that you can add to the recent list of horror films which are not absolutely great movies or classics of the genre but, at the same time, are skilled enough with the clich├ęs and shorthand of their archetype to be able to deliver an enjoyable and competent addition to the list of similar films being made. Where The Darkness really wins some respect from me is with the addition of the Native American demons and their hostile attempt to return from the dimension that they were trapped in many years ago by their own people. Don’t quite remember that kind of mythology being tapped before (although I’m sure somebody must have already covered it at some point).

The film starts off with Peter and Bonny, played as well as you would expect by Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell, and their two children, on a vacation with their friends near the Grand Canyon. The youngest of the two, the boy, is autistic and, when he’s left alone for a minute by his sister who’s supposed to be watching him, he falls through into a cavern and finds five pebbles inscribed with icons and which he removes from their specific, ritualistic place in the cave, taking them home in his ruck sack. This, of course, opens the household up to various ‘haunting’ phenomena, which the boy is usually blamed for, as this has allowed the all powerful demons something to anchor themselves onto, so they can begin to free themselves from the confines of their prison. Of course, because the boy Michael (played by Gotham’s young Bruce Wayne, David Mazouz), is autistic, he can see what ‘the sky people’ are doing and even tries to help them for most of the picture.

It’s nothing particularly special as a movie, for sure, but it does have that mythological edge to it in the Indian legend. In terms of the story and the eventual ‘final solution’ of the movie, it does at least stick with the rules and back story it sets up for itself... something which some horror movies seem to have trouble doing, these days, for some reason. So I was pretty glad when we had some follow through on this stuff beyond the point of... this is how the spooky, sinister force came to be here and now we’re just going to do our own thing with it, without referring to the origins again.

The film is fairly well shot and, though it doesn’t exactly go nuts on the intensity of the scares along the way, it does get quite suspenseful at some points in the movie. The use of black dirt handprints as a signature that a ghostly and demonic presence is at work is used quite well a lot of the time and these are used to build tension throughout as they are manifested in various places, including being imprinted on a couple of the characters themselves, when they face their supernatural opposition.

The performances in this are all pretty good, too. Bacon is always cool, as is Radha Mitchell... who really needs to get more lead roles. David Mazouz is very good as the autistic son and his character’s sister, Stephanie, played by Lucy Fry, also does well at portraying an angry and troubled teenager. It was nice seeing Paul Reiser back on the big screen, playing an even bigger and annoying idiot than he did in ALIENS but it was the character of his wife who I really sat up and took note of. She’s not in it that much but it was nice seeing the beautiful Ming-Na Wen, aka Agent May from Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD on the big screen. We need more of her in Hollywoodland too, me thinks.

So not much more to say about this one except we have another nice touch in the fact that the person (or people) who the family go to in order to fight back against their supernatural threat are actually of some help in this case (as those kinds of ‘Van Helsing’ figures were in the Insidious series too, I guess)... although, at the end of the day, any salvation in the final act comes from a different avenue. In fact that, for me, was the one weak point of the film... in the last ten minutes I was at a place where I started thinking... “Oh, really. They’re going to do that, now?” However, it does at least fit in with the stuff we know about the antagonist demons from their back story so, I wasn’t too upset by the place the ending went to. Although, it did feel a little anti-climactic, if truth be told.

And that’s about all I’ve got to say on this one. The score by Johnny Klimek was pretty good and perhaps just a little more subtle and less ‘stinger led’ than a lot of modern horrors have been. I’d probably buy the score if it was available but... so far, there seems to be nothing released on CD for this one. Maybe we’ll get something released later, though, if the film does well enough at the box office?

So there you have it. A pretty short review and, for some reason, I don’t have much to say about this one. If you’re into horror movies then you probably won’t be blown away by The Darkness but it’s certainly well put together and good enough to go on your ‘to watch’ list, I would have thought. If you’re not that used to horror movies then this will probably scare you enough into watching some more of them... or avoiding them. Not sure which but it is fairly effective in certain sequences, at any rate. Not one I’d go out of my way for but certainly worth spending a little time with, I think. So maybe give this one a go.

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