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THE DARK -
Rated: USA: R
Opening credits and we see ocean. Lots and lots of ocean. Then people start falling in.
Then we see a car driving along. A mother, Adéle (Maria Bello: THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR), has a younger, earphone wearing daughter, Sarah, and she is unhappy with Mom. Mention of the town of Cardiff puts us around about the Welsh part of England. The daughter tells her Mom that they're lost. Mom assures her daughter that they aren't. But its soon night time and they are both sleeping in the car by the side of the road. Mom has a spooky dream and wakes up.
The next morning they find their car stuck in mud and sheep and walk the rest of the way to estranged hubby's home on the cliff.
"That's so like your father," Adéle says derisively of her ex.
Once inside though, James the ex (Sean Bean: EQUILIBRIUM, SILENT HILL), reveals that he's turning an old slaughterhouse into a home, building his studio in the old abattoir. Okay, so clearly he's my kind of guy, but where is all of this heading?
Sarah goes up to her new room and is immediately set upon by odd noises. Not one to be easily spooked by spooks, she goes exploring to find the source of the noises.
The next day, Sarah comes upon a massive stone marker
just like in her Mother's dream. David, the local handyman helping James rebuild, tells them that the marker is about a group of people who, 50 years before, made their own religion and eventually killed themselves.
Some sheep go nuts but its nothing to lose sleep over. Flashbacks and memories reveal that Adéle & Sarah have some serious rebellious, teen-angst separation anxiety going on. As Sarah warms to being back with her father, Mom does as well, but she is also bothered by how well her daughter gets on with her father. It's nothing perverted - its not that kind of movie. But Adéle finds herself growing jealous of the relationship between Sarah and James and tries unsuccessfully to inject herself into it. Which is something that shuts Sarah right down.
At the base of the cliffs, on the rocks that jut out to sea, Sarah goes exploring and sees something shiny in the water. She reaches in and pulls out a key on a chain. Something else in the water appears to notice.
Meanwhile, Adéle on the beach loses sight of Sarah, has another vision, and goes in search of her daughter. That doesn't get far before she sees Sarah's shoe floating in the water. Adéle goes ape and nearly gets herself killed searching the water. Pop saves Mom, then when he realizes Sarah may be washed out to sea, goes in himself.
When all is said and done, when
the search reluctantly dies down and the cops have gone, the parents come together as their hope falls away.
Workman David (Maurice Roëves: JUDGE DREDD), meanwhile, doesn't search the waters, but the abattoir beneath the house. He searches at night with a flashlight like he knows to expect something.
Meanwhile, Adéle is having nightmares in her sleep and visions when she's awake. Thinking she saw Sarah outside, her chase leads her to the abattoir.
She finds the girl, but it turns out not to be her daughter. Instead it is another blonde girl who talks in threatening sing-song.
Through the force of James desperation and guilt ("I wasn't there when she was lost. I want to be there when she's found.") the search goes on long past the point of giving up.
Adéle handles her feelings by searching out all the spooky noises in the house. What she finds makes the whole thing even uglier because it appears that her daughter's disappearance is worse than a tragic accident. Someone may have planned it.
Soon Adéle finds herself searching out the myths of the locale. Old Welsh legends that some there still believe or fear. The idea that Sarah may have been part of some local religious sacrifice begins to form. But there's something else. Spooky noises and things begin to happen in the house when Adéle is all alone. Things that seem more and more unlikely to have been caused by humans.
It all sounds pretty good, doesn't it? The creepiness deepens, the supernatural weirdness grows, and it all seems like it is really going somewhere. Screenwriter Stephen Massicotte (GINGER SNAPS BACK: THE BEGINNING) adapted the script from a novel by Simon Maginn. Veteran television show Director, John Fawcett (GINGER SNAPS), knows how to create mood and tension. But once you do that, you also need payoff.
The popularity of RINGU spawned THE RING in 2002 and with the wild success of that, Hollywood wanted as many Mother & Child in supernatural peril screenplays as possible. By 2005 Dreamworks released THE RING 2, Touchstone released an American remake of DARK WATER, Universal Pictures released SILENT HILL, Miramax finally released THE DARKNESS, and THE GRUDGE came out in 2004 with the ghostly Mother & child.
THE DARK was produced by Paul W.S. Anderson and his longtime collaborator, Jeremy Bolt (EVENT HORIZON, RESIDENT EVIL, DEATH RACE, PANDORUM), so of course, they wanted to combine all of these story lines into one mash up mess, which works so well in a 2 minute, funny YouTube video satire, but goes splat in a feature length movie.
As melodramatic downer as this movie becomes, slogging through one nightmare/ hallucination/ vision/ flashback after the next, each one worse, darker, and less interesting, I started to realize that it was all set piece and imagery being thrown at me. I feared that the film makers didn't really know where they were going with all of this and that there would be no payoff.
Subplot one involves some kind of curse from a long dead religious whack job. We've seen the nutso religious kooks as an excuse for evil so many times that if you are going to take this route, you have to give us more than soft focus black and white of the same scenes we just saw in color. Oooh! Now it's black and white and kinda blurry! How otherworldly!
Subplot two involves a single fight that Adéle and Sarah had at some time or other. Just that one apparently. Do I really need to explain the well-worn, blame-your-mother motivation? There is nothing in the past or present in THE DARK, to suggest that Adele is/was a bad mother, and there is everything to suggest that Sarah is going through the typical confusing teen angst that we all went through at her age. Growing up is tough. And growing up as a teenager while your body and brain are going through major physical and hormonal re-structural changes is really freaking tough!
Instead, THE DARK goes for a drag of a DARK WATER, SILENT HILL, kinda nihilistic yet ambiguous ending. Like sitting through an overly long joke, one that builds up your expectations that your patience will be rewarded, and then the comic forgets the punchline. And the more you talk about it with your friends right after, the more everyone realizes how pointless it all was. Which makes THE DARK one 93 minute long hopeless emo trip.
Two Shriek Girls
copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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The DVD doesn't have much for features, but it does have an alternate ending, but it's no better than the original.