HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Darkness
HTS Overall Score:69
Australian and Australian directed horror movies have become a big thing recently, with some great and not so great results. I was really intrigued by “The Darkness” when I heard director Greg McLean was attached to the title, being that “Rogue” and the original “Wolf Creek” were both gritty and nasty little horror movies that really could creep someone out (I have a phobia of things under the water so “Rogue” was especially terrifying for me as a viewer). However, the 4% score on Rotten tomatoes had me really second guessing myself and I kind of wish that I had listened to that gut instinct after seeing the 4% rating. “The Darkness” takes an almost “Poltergeist” style film and creates a bland and decidedly uninteresting tale that refuses to terrify and plods along with a rather clichéd plot line. The movie is not devoid of interest, as the inclusion of an autistic boy and a tribal demon setting makes for SOME interest, but not enough to overcome the many hurdles that are thrown in front of the movie’s way.
The Taylor family has just gotten back from a camping trip with friends out in the desert only to find out that something has followed them home. Peter (Kevin Bacon) and Bronny (Radha Mitchell) both start noticing some strange things going, such as water faucets magically being left on, or little bumps in the night, but both parents chalk it up to the eccentricities one faces when living with an autistic son. Michael, said son, has very obviously disturbed some ancient Native American stones with symbols on them back at the camp site and taken with, but no one else notices until things start getting REALLY weird. Bronny and Peter start turning against each other, Bronny bringing up an old affair that tore them apart, and Peter noticing the odd behavior of his wife and the excessive drinking. Daughter, Stephanie (Lucy Fry) is diagnosed with bulimia and the only person to notice Mikey acting sort of strange is their mother in law, who ends up getting put into the hospital mysteriously.
By now everyone has figured out that SOMETHING is going on. Even agnostic Peter can’t deny the fact that something he can’t explain is plaguing their house. Desperate to find out what is going wrong and save what is left of his family, he contacts a mysterious mystic who may be their one and only chance of restoring some balance to their lives. That is if the spirits that Mikey has unfortunately unleashed can even BE contained. A task that will force the entire family to band together, despite the growing fragmentation, and fight for what and whom they love dearest.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78594[/img]There’s something intriguing and unique about “The Darkness”, despite the numerous “Poltergeist” clichés that it interweaves into the story (including a father/son rescue that plays right out of the horror beginner’s handbook and was foreshadowed in the first 30 minutes). The tribal nature of the spirits also adds a unique flair along with Mikey being a bit autistic. A fact that acts as a mask for the characters in the film, given that any odd behaviors could be chalked up to the eccentricities of Michael and his mental issue. Usually characters are SOOOOOOOOO dense, to the point of madness, that you just root for them to get eaten by the monster. Here it makes a bit more sense as an autistic child is already a bit different than the norm, so any weird happenings could easily be explained away. It makes for the shock and terror that the rest of the family feels a bit more realistic later on in the film.
The rest of the movie is just a mess, though. Events play out in a VERY cookie cutter fashion, with the audience knowing beforehand that something amiss is going to happen, but just waits as the spirits commune with Mikey and lay waste to the rest of the house. I don’t mind a clichéd story in a horror film, as long as it’s either bloody as all get out, or reasonably creepy. Sadly “The Darkness” is neither, with a solid PG-13 rating that relies on the “boo!” effect to create any real scares or jumps. No blood, no real terror, and no real setup to the last act. We spend LITERALLY an hour with barely anything happening besides some strange events, and it’s not till the last 30 minutes of the film that we get ANY explanation of what the spirits are, what they want, and what they even LOOK like. The rest of the time is just a 2/3rd of a movie buildup that feels like it could have been done in half the time.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some disturbing violence, brief sensuality and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78602[/img]I couldn’t find any direct references to the cameras used to film “The Darkness”, but it definitely is shot with digital cameras as the image is just too clean and clear to not be (unless they’re using some REALLY high quality film stock, which doesn’t jive with the ultra-cheap budget given to the Australian film). The resulting image is one that is clean and clear of any major imperfections except for some minimal digital noise in a few darker scenes, such as when young Michael falls down into the cave at the beginning of the movie. The color scheme tends to lean towards a sandy and dusty look with a slight yellow filter during the opening act, but once the family returns back to suburbia the colors drift towards a more neutral, if still ever so slightly yellowed coloring. Primaries are strong, but flesh tones look a bit yellowish and the black levels remain inky deep, no matter the situation. Despite the afore mentioned digital noise that crops up in very minor amounts, the image is pristine and superbly detailed throughout.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78610[/img]Like most modern horror movies, “The Darkness sports a hefty and rather aggressive audio mix that feeds off of jump scares and loud things that go crash in the night. Dialog is always crisp and localized in the front center portion of the screen, and the front sound stage shows some nice panning effects and localization in the placement of certain noticeable sounds (listen to the faucet running the first time it’s found on its own). LFE is punishing and powerful throughout, adding plenty of bangs and crashes to the experience that really make the audience jump (if they’re not expecting it). Like usual, the surrounds are used with lots of creepy music making its way into the score and the little tinks and clanks that make up the majority of the creaks and groans of your typical horror mix. I did notice that the bass felt a bit sparse in some sequences and also a bit like a one note boom at times. It’s not very noticeable or very distracting, but the thickness of the LFE channel is noticeable if you know what to listen to.
• Alternate Ending
• Deleted Scenes
“The Darkness” is not a good horror film, despite the addition of Director Greg McLean. The haunted house genre is well worn, but still can be quite effective in creating some scares, but “The Darkness” is just an all-around tepid experience. There is nothing that’s overtly WRONG about the movie, besides the fact that it fails to elicit any scares, whether that be through jumping and surprise or actual creepiness. The film just plods along at an inexorably slow pace leaving the viewer tempted to look at their watch more than a few times in the relatively short 93 minutes from opening to closing. Sadly, even the novelty of Michael being an Autistic child who can see the spirits fades rather quickly once you realize the plot is going nowhere fast. Good audio and great video are about the only thing that make watching the film worthwhile. Skip it.
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz, Lucy Fry
Directed by: Greg McLean
Written by: Shayne Armstrong, Shane Krause
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Blu-Ray Date: September 6th 2016
Buy The Darkness On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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