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The Darkness (Movie Review)

The Darkness (Movie Review)
3 10
The Darkness Greg McLean Kevin Bacon Radha Mitchell

PLOT: The Taylor family is having a rough time of it. Dad Peter (Kevin Bacon) is a sexually frustrated workaholic, mom Bronny (Radha Mitchell) is a stressed out ex-alcoholic, teen daughter Steph (Lucy Fry) is a hormonal stew, and autistic son Mikey (David Mazouz) brought home a set of talismanic stones from their latest camping trip, the removal of which has set loose a quintet of powerful Native American demons. Relationships become strained as a series of strange happenings begin to occur around their massive suburban house.

REVIEW: Is THE DARKNESS the worst movie Blumhouse has ever produced? Well, no. I’m pretty sure the only reason PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 exists is to be an insurance policy against any future movie qualifying as “worst.” But it’s certainly their most derivative. THE DARKNESS puts POLTERGEIST, INSIDIOUS, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY into a blender, but it forgets one important ingredient: enthusiasm. THE DARKNESS is an exceptionally apathetic film, going through the motions of every haunted house movie ever made (the attic scene, the kid’s imaginary friend, psychic animals, mysterious noises, calling a medium, not to mention two separate Googling the Paranormal sequences) without any semblance of effort.

I’m not certain the film is even attempting to be scary. Honestly, it would be reassuring if it wasn’t, because aside from a few rote “cut to something weird and pump up the bass on the soundtrack” moments, there is not a scrap of discernibly horrific material. For the most part, it’s just a feeble family drama that sheds subplots like they’re bikinis in a Girls Gone Wild video. Although, I will give THE DARKNESS credit for something. You know that cliché scene where something nasty appears when a character closes the refrigerator door? Well, that’s miraculously combined with the equally cliché “spooky reflection” gag to create a truly baffling moment that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Kudos for that, I guess.

 

 

The cast does little to redeem the film. Although it’s always nice to see Kevin Bacon return to the genre that birthed his career, he is forced to recite humiliatingly leaden Lifetime thriller dialogue and his pain is palpable. Then there’s Mitchell and Fry, who both imbue their roles with the curiously strained intonations of somebody desperately attempting to wrangle a mammoth Australian accent. Of course, it doesn’t help that Fry is being asked to realistically embody a role that hasn’t existed since the 90’s: the 24-year-old, breakfast-skipping high school student with a sharp tongue and a penchant for wearing blazers. THE DARKNESS should be more worried about conjuring the restless spirit of Alicia Silverstone than its half-baked demons with dirty hands.

Speaking of our friendly neighborhood demons, for a set of entities thoroughly covered in several exposition-filled documentaries that we’re forced to watch multiple times, their methods are spectacularly ill-defined. They’re meant to take the shapes of animals, but they seem to really get a kick out of that human handprint trick. They’re five hulking male figures, but during their “imaginary friend” phase (à la Captain Howdy, Toby, and Mr. Boogie before them), they go by the singularly inscrutable moniker “Jenny.” And despite being Native American spirits, they require a Mexican medium to banish them. I suppose when Hollywood’s in a pinch, any non-white person will do.

 

 

THE DARKNESS is a tremendously muddled horror film that completely fails to maintain its focus, stringing together a series of dully repetitive dud scares with frustrating non-starter drama. What could have been, in the best-case scenario, a decent, rote haunted house picture has been drawn and quartered, the pieces scattered across the screen in a gruesome tableau. Nothing in the film is quite as bad as the awkward improv and manic rack focusing of its opening scene, but only one or two moments would qualify as generally “good.”

The film’s only saving grace is its eventual backslide into unintentional B-movie campiness. The finale puts pedal to the metal for a parade of nutso, sub-Spielberg bombast. A particularly mental scene with Mylar balloons (you’ll know it when you see it) is delightful enough to bump up my score at least two points all on its own. But a late stage shot in the arm cannot resurrect a dreary spectacle of endless disappointment. To quote one of Steph’s ludicrous, constantly blasting alt rock songs, THE DARKNESS is a deadly “bee sting on my heart, babe.” I never wish bad box office upon a movie, but I hope this flick doesn’t rake in PURGE-level numbers, because I don’t think I could survive another one of these.

Extra Tidbit: The Darkness is currently in theaters.

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