[MOVIE REVIEW]More dim than dark, this film is horrificIt’s a moody, haunted house tale by a Spanish director, but it isn’t “The Others.”
It’s a ghost story about a spiritual force trying to kidnap a family’s child, but it isn’t “Poltergeist.”
It’s about demons and entrances to hell and all-round nastiness, but it isn’t “Hellraiser” or “The Haunting” or “The Mouth of Madness” or anything by H.P. Lovecraft. You could be forgiven for noticing ideas and influences from a whole potpourri of sources.
“Darkness” is not, however scary or creepy it manages to get, a remotely original or engaging story.
Don’t think that I’ve given away any key plot points with this belabored introduction. The makers of this film wouldn’t recognize a twist if Chubby Checker were doing it.
The story takes place in the modern Spanish countryside, where an American family has come to live for no discernible reason. Also for no discernible reason (aside from producers who worry about international distribution), everyone speaks English (just to make language issues a little more confusing, at a key point in the film, the lead character, Regina, casually reveals that she can read Latin).
Anyhow, the story begins with the aforementioned Regina (Anna Paquin) and her family still getting settled in their huge, creepy house, where no one has lived for 40 years. The faucets run dirty water, the electricity is mysteriously faulty and an eclipse is just a few days away. In short, every signal known in moviedom that says “This is a horror movie!” is on display. This family is in dire need of watching Eddie Murphy’s old bit about what he would do if he found out his house was haunted (that is, get out right away).
No one in this family is remotely as intelligent, so they doggedly stay on at the increasingly creepy house. A satanic statuary sits in plain view, without anyone thinking to comment. And just to further doom themselves, they start uttering damning sentences like “Everything will be fine,” and “Trust me.”
Of course, characters soon reveal that they can’t be trusted and everything is pretty far from fine.
On the purely visual and auditory levels, “Darkness” does its job ― it is pretty freaky, and often quite scary. But the scares don’t come from the laborious, silly story; they come from jump cuts, special effects and a host of editing tricks. Disconcerting, sure, but hardly what I’d call “horror.”
On the plus side, “Darkness” does feature Anna Paquin running around in tight T-shirts a lot.
And, more seriously, if you are into the gothic, demonic horror thing, “Darkness” does have a fairly creepy climax.
But hardly enough to make the previous 95 minutes of lemon-in-your-eyes painful dumbness worth sitting through.
by Mark Russell