DARKNESS - 2005
Castelao Producciones S.A. / Dimension Films / Fantastic Factory / Vía Digital / Miramax
Ratings: France: -12 / Sweden: 15 / U.K.: 18 / USA: R
The credits roll over darkness and you hear a man questioning a boy. Newspaper clippings flash through the credits with headlines about some kind of ritual slaying. The man asks direct questions but the boy's answers are evasive. You see a boy running through the woods. You realize that the child isn't intentionally trying to dodge the questions, he's just traumatized and confused.
Then it's 40 years later.
You meet the new family of the house.
With cinematography by Xavi Giménez (INTACTO, LOS SIN NOMBRE, PALABRAS ENCADENADAS,
THE MACHINIST), DARKNESS, true to its name, is visually dark throughout every frame. Writer / Director
Jaume Balagueró (Ramsey Campbell's LOS SIN NOMBRE) however must shoulder the blame for this, having instructed
Xavi on how he wanted his movie to look. The entire movie looks dark. This is a bad precedent to set because, by the time the Darkness arrives - in the form of a much awaited eclipse, the audience is left wondering if the characters are in THE dark darkness. There is no shock of contrast. Even a housewarming party that's supposed to be outside in bright sunlight is in subdued tones.
Our heroine, so to speak, is Regina or Reggie for short (Anna Paquin: X-MEN). The big sister of the house, she moves among her parents with wary caution. That is because her Pop, Mark (Iain Glenn: PARANOID, TOMB RAIDER, RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE), has a condition that makes him prone to violence. Actor Glenn, who usually plays strong rogues or dashing hero types, does a great turn here as a very weak and wimpy man. His portrayal of Mark is of a man overwhelmed by mental demons and subdued by the medicine
that keeps them at bay. Reggie's Mom, Maria (Lena Olin: THE NINTH GATE, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, ALIAS [TV]), is also treated with distance because
she lives in constant denial about Pop's attacks, even when he is laying in the hospital recovering from one.
Regina has also become a self-styled designated protector of her little brother Paul
(Stephan Enquist), who is too young to remember Pop's first real bad attack and so is frightened when Pop suffers a relapse.
Scene after scene, the creeps and suspense in the movie builds in tiny increments.
We see flashes of dark shadows moving past open doorways, silhoutes of
gathered children waiting in dark rooms, just out of the light. At one
point Pop loses it completely and first starts hacking into the wood panelling
of the house, under the staircase, "Paul told me to do it," Pop says (Little Paul later denies it, thus revealing that Pop's violent dementia is returning). Beneath the stairs,
Pop finds a cache of stuff that would belong to a child. He also finds
a creepy photograph that looks like it is out of the 1800s, but is later
revealed to be from only 40 years ago. What gives? Who knows. By this
time, all the new questions promise a whopping big payoff. But like much
of this movie, nothing is ever explained.
Early on, through a series of flashbacks, we find that Pop is the child we heard,
the seventh child that "got away". Funny how he wouldn't recognize
the house that must surely haunt his dreams - but perhaps Pop has blocked
that horrid memory from his mind. That said, even among people who block
like that - all it takes is a mere image or sound or smell from their
repressed memory to bring it all back, and Pop is given enough imagery
to remember minutia!
Pop sees the house and is unfazed.
Pop sees the creepy picture and falls in love with it.
As the movie explains it, it is not the terrible familiar house that is setting off
Mark's attacks, but the darkness. So this plot hole is a bit deep. But
there are an awful lot of plotholes throughout this flick.
Now I love movies that leave you with unanswered questions (DARK
CITY), so long as they answer the main question or plot. And I love
movies with endings that leave you hanging (JACOB'S
LADDER), but that only works when there is enough in the story that,
if you give it some thought, nearly everyone can arrive at the same conclusion
because that vague ending was actually forewarned from throughout the
earlier parts of the film. And I'm crazy about movies that leave the survival
of the characters open or in question (DAWN
OF THE DEAD). And, of course, I've enjoyed many Horror movies where
the evil wins (any number of Horror movies and I am clearly a Horror fan). I can even accept a villian that goes
into a brief monologue to "catch you up". But the villian in
this one goes monologuing for so long (i.e. MATRIX:
RELOADED) that I think his victim even fell asleep! And after he was finally through? He STILL didn't explain his motivation!
Why would he do all of this? 40 years of this and the destruction of his
entire life for what? Mere passing curiosity???
Wretched! DARKNESS works like this: Creepy dark stuff is happening. More creepy
dark stuff is happening. Creepy dark stuff keeps happening. Pop finally
loses it. Creepy dark stuff happens. More creepy dark stuff happens. The End.
This is frustrating because there was so much promise at the start of this movie for what
could happen. Yet by the end very little happens.
This movie really deserves a single shriek girl, which is a warning to KILL
IT BEFORE IT BREEDS! Still, the actors here all produced excellent
work even within the confines of a dawdling script that couldn't do any more
than crippled repetition. Thanks for nothing to Jaume Balagueró,
who wrote the story and, as Director, told it. Additional dialogue - as
such - was provided by Fernando de Felipe and Miguel Tejada-Flores (FRIGHT
NIGHT II, FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED, BEYOND REANIMATOR). But so what? If you see the first 15 minutes of this film, you've seen the whole
On the strength of acting alone, DARKNESS gets a barely earned two Shriek Girls.
copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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