THE DARKNESS Review

If one tends to keep up with things such as what type of films studios or production houses make or acquire it is possible to be excited for a film based solely on the people backing it. Whether it be the ever-reliable A24 or Megan Ellison at Annapurna Pictures if either of these studios are attached to an upcoming release I tend to be interested solely because they make interesting and diverse choices in the movies they choose to release. In the realm of horror-especially smaller, more independent horror-there has been one name that has risen above the rest in recent years and that would be Blumhouse Productions run by its founder and CEO Jason Blum. The guy has had a pretty strong track record as he's been behind some of the biggest recent horror franchises including the Insidious and Paranormal Activity films, even resurrecting M. Night Shyamalan's horror career last year with The Visit, but that isn't to say there haven't been a few stinkers along the way either. Every genre has them, but horror somehow seems to suffer the most. With The Darkness Blum and co. have, for some strange reason, decided it was a good idea to give the guy who's directed two Wolf Creek movies a nice enough budget to cast the likes of Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell in a screenplay (written by director Greg McLean and a couple of Shane/Shayne's) that is more than happy to go through the obligatory horror movie check list and mark off every cliché imaginable. The Darkness is a bad movie. There are no if's, and's, or but's about it-it flat out sucks and there is hardly anything to redeem its many, many shortcomings much less being worth anyone's time lest they might waste it on this schlock. Even worse, this outright terribleness is apparent right from the get-go. For some reason actors like Matt Walsh and Jennifer Morrison (who I assume are generally busy people) agreed to show up for what couldn't have been more than a two day shoot to capture what is the set-up and a handful of expositional dialogue in such strained and phony ways that there was no denying the quality of what was to come. When ones dialogue can't even be conveyed believably by someone as incredibly endearing as Walsh, there's a problem.

If that doesn't make the film sound bad enough, try this on for size-The Darkness is about a family consisting of a mom and a dad (Bacon and Mitchell) who have two kids (Lucy Fry and David Mazouz) and go on a vacation to The Grand Canyon. On this vacation their youngest child, Michael, comes across some ancient rocks and takes them back to their suburban paradise where bad things begin to happen. I'm sure you can see where this is going and how the strained marriage of Bacon and Mitchell's characters will be brought back together by this challenging time in their autistic son's life, but I won't bore you with the details-you can just watch the movie if you care to experience that level of boredom. At a clean ninety minutes I expected this small-ish horror flick to take the idea of a scary movie exploring an ancient civilization and their beliefs and turn those expectations we've come to have with horror flicks that do the same with Christianity on their head. Instead, McLean and his co-writers choose to go through the motions of any and every horror movie you've ever seen before only altering the inspiration enough in hopes that no one notices. If you can think of a horror cliché it likely exists within The Darkness. Unique child who can see things no else can? Check. Doors opening and TV's turning on with no explanation? Check. Old mystic lady performing a ritual to cleanse the haunted house? Check. Seriously, all of these things are included here with no regard for all that has come before it. It would be one thing if the film were doing something different with these tropes or even offering a different spin on such familiar plot points, but it feels as if McLean is so desperate to have his movie feel like a real movie that he purposefully plays into these familiar devices in order to be as average and generic as possible which in turn only cause the actions of both his characters and his story to be laughable.

The Taylor clan (Kevin Bacon, Lucy Fry, David Mazouz, Radha Mitchell) find themselves in some scarily familiar situations.  
Worse even is the fact the story has no sense of structure or tension. Things happen, issues are brought to light and then...nothing. We are fed these ideas about an ancient Indian tribe that once prospered beneath the Grand Canyon and how they were, "the people the Navajo called the Ancient Ones!" with the entirety of this haunting by an ancient supernatural entity done through this basis, but we learn nothing about these tribes or why they worshiped the way they did or believed the things they did outside of a few repeated moments in a YouTube, err hmm, I mean "eWeb Videos" video. There are plot strands having to deal with Michael's aforementioned autism and how this mental state might make him more privy to connecting with and contacting these ghosts as well as something about the daughter, Stephanie, being bulimic, but again this character detail adds nothing to the overarching plot of the film except for more stress and strain on the parents. I'd like to tell you that besides huge leaps in logic and in plot that there is at least some tension sprinkled throughout and that the performers at least do all they can to make this material work, but I can't. The performances are downright bad-as in, they are so bad they might be the scariest thing about this movie. How do you turn generally appealing movie stars into bad actors? The culprit has to be the writing and the writing in The Darkness is so stilted and false the performances can't help but to come off the same way. The only person having any fun here is Paul Reiser who plays Bacon's boss at his architecture firm. Reiser is a middle-aged schmuck who tosses young new hires at Bacon's Peter (pun intended, but seriously that's his character's name) to see how long it takes him to cheat on his wife, ruin his family, etc. etc...you know the deal. While Reiser is a creepy and somewhat misogynistic archetype the actor at least seems to be having some fun with just how bad his dialogue is. If they were simply going to recycle anything and everything we've seen in a horror movie before the makers could have at least had some fun with it, but it seems Reiser was the only one in on the joke. Unfortunately, the biggest butts of this joke will be the people who end up paying for this mess in hopes of finding a fun, scary movie to see on Friday the 13th.