Director: Juame Balagueró
Giancarlo Giannini/Albert Rua
A quaint family moves into a remote house somewhere in Spain. It doesn’t take long for things to go bang in the night and for an intricate plot involving the occult to go down. I’m not afraid of no ghost (except for the ghosts of X-Mas Visa bills)! Are you?
Darkness rode into my life with a rep glued to its ass. First it was co- written and directed by Juame Balagueró who also helmed the critically acclaimed “The Nameless” (which I haven’t seen yet but I've heard all kinds of great things about it). Secondly, Darkness was released outside North America in 2002/03 and the glowing reviews that arose were plenty. So yes, I hopped on this tramp with cock-Holmes-high expectations. Was it worth the wait? Well, yes and no.
Foremost it should be said that I f*cking loathe reviewing a film that was trimmed down by its distributor for mass consumption where I always feel that I didn’t get to witness the whole she-bang. Darkness was initially Rated R but Dimension Films in their “lets follow the sell-out, pussy trend” wisdom cut it down to a PG-13. So far, I know that I missed out on a scene sporting “bleeding walls” (none of that stuff was in this PG-13 Cut) and all of the “profanity” (they don’t say “fucking” here, they say “freaking”…urg). Who knows what else I didn’t get to chew on! My point is; my review of the movie might alter when I boogie to the Rated R version on DVD. Is it just me, or am I the only one starting to get really peeved at Studios for dicking us around with all these versions? ENOUGH! Release films the way they were intended to be seen or don’t release them at all! Use those cutting scissors for circumcisions on your children; keep them away from my beloved genre efforts fuckos! On with the review!
“Darkness” uppercut me hard mainly on one rank and that was in its arresting, style laced directing. Director Balagueró used quick/flash cuts mucho efficiently, knew how to paint an exceptionally spooky picture and manipulated darkness/shadows in a remarkably spine-chilling fashion. This was a hands down, deliciously macabre looking, uber atmospheric and crawl under skin fear flick! I got the “willies” more than once due to its striking imagery alone! The story itself was compelling enough to keep me “jonesing” from one scare set piece to the next but the whole did play more like a horror “Greatest Hits” compilation than a full fledged narrative. We got obvious elements off The Shining, The Amityville Horror, Darkness Falls (shudder), The Ninth Gate and last frames that shouted A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although it did showcase a couple of whoppers of its own (like that ceiling crawling creature…brrr), Darkness mostly resorted to echoing the greats which was gnarly on one end but which led me to my main peeve with it on the other; lack of essence in its screenplay.
The way I perceived it, the script here was filled with high-quality (yet familiar) ideas that were never explored deep enough; they were solely glazed upon. There was even one slick "Amityville Part 3" like subplot that wound up going nowhere (the picture the boyfriend developed). COME ON MAN! All of the essentials at play should’ve gone so much further for full-on impact. The same could be said about the story “twists” and the unraveling of events. This tale unfolded in a fairly passive manner, rarely having the jewels to step over the "safe" line while the plot bombshells were all too predictable to whoop me stupid; I saw them coming eons away. Tag to that, the mother character (Olin) frustratingly doing all the wrong moves (like not accepting what’s in front of her and not getting her young ones of the house already) and you get a first-class looking terror train that mostly worked as cum inducing eye/jolt horror candy; nothing more.
By and large, Darkness was a morbid exercise, with decent acting and potent gruesome weapons in its nap-sack. Unfortunately this PG-13 cut never took the time to go Bonzai on us with the zany, ghastly games it was playing on any level. Hopefully the R Rated cut will change that to some degree. You going to plunge into this Darkness or wait for video?
We get a bloodied hand, some bruised faces and a couple of "suggested" stuff. I heard this flick had lots of blood in it; I guess they removed that sweet jive for this PG-13 Cut. F*ckers!
Anna Paquin (Regina) gave an adequate performance; she sometimes felt off though. Was it me or was she always smiling, even when crying? For better and for worse Lena Olin (Maria) played it down. She was too flaccid in moments for my liking but then again, the screenplay didn’t give her much to toy with. Iain Glen (Mark) did well with was he was given but again; the script was holding him back. Giancarlo Giannini (Albert) is a grand actor, period. This part didn’t demand much from him so of course, he aced it. Stephan Enquist (Paul) sold me as the frightened and abused young boy.
T & A
If only cutie Anna Paquin had gotten up while she was in the tub…if only…
Juame Balagueró spanked the donkey on both cheeks with well staged scare sequences, an efficient use of flash-cuts and an able milking of the dark, oppressive and sinister atmosphere on display. All we needed was a strong screenplay to back all those goodies up and we could’ve had a champ!
The score by Salva Mayolas and Dani Fontrodona worked like a hand-jobber stroking overtime when it came to supporting the unsettling images in the house.
I was never uninterested during Darkness. The horror "Shake & Bake" storyline kept me involved enough, the threateningly polished directing had me on my frightened toes and the performances were sufficiently engaging. Alas the screenplay wasn’t essentially profound in its many ploys and much like a cheating girlfriend, this PG-13 Cut made me feel like I was missing out on all kinds of stuff! I say see skip this cinematic Happy Meal cut and wait for the R Rated version to land on DVD. Then you’ll be able to judge the film in its entirety as opposed to this watered down drink. Studios suck! Merry X-Mas!
The flick was shot for about $10.6 million bucks in Spain.
Darkness was originally supposed to be released on August 2nd, 2002, then February 7th, 2003. and then June 18th, 2004. It's finally coming out this XMAS.
The director initially wanted Nathalie Portman for the role that eventually went to Anna Paquin.
The Production Company behind this film is Fantastic Factory, the lads behind Arachnid, Dagon, The Nameless and Faust.
VISIT THE OFFICIAL DARKNESS SITE HERE