I knew NOTHING about The Darkness before it hit theaters. (strange how many of my reviews start like this considering how much time i spend reading about horror) When I was looking through the horror films on offer last week, I noticed it. (ok. i didn’t know NOTHING. i vaguely remember seeing a tweet or two about it) Since it seemed to be the only prospect, I looked into it. Turns out it’s from the director of Wolf Creek. Sweet! I loved (in a relative sense) that gritty, brutal Aussie film. Wait, The Darkness is PG-13? (dubious cringe) Well, that doesn’t have to mean it’s a watered-down artistic compromise, right? Sure, we’ve seen that type of thing from other genre filmmakers making their first US film, but it probably won’t happen this time. Right?
Bronny (yeah, Bronny. i kept thinking I must be hearing it wrong. but i wasn’t) and Peter (Radha Mitchell and Kevin Bacon respectively) return from a camping trip to the Grand Canyon where their son with autism stumbled upon a hidden cave that contained scorched images of demons (maybe) and five American Indian runestones (rocks with pictures carved into them. oh – and i’m not even going to get into the “the other” trope with the Native American folklore here). Back home, weird things start happening – the boy stares at the wall laughing at his “friend” “Jody” (oops. not Jody, that’s from a different movie. but I can’t remember what it really was. maybe Judy?); the boy’s normally extra patient and understanding sister is easily irked by him suddenly (and she has bulimia, but i don’t think that’s related to the haunting thing they have going on); dark handprints start appearing everywhere; grandma is frightened by a kitchen rattlesnake; Peter is tempted by the WAY-out-of-his-league/way-too-young-for-him intern at work; (this list is actually a great way to write this synopsis, so i’m going to keep it going) Bronny falls off the alcoholic wagon and hires a shaman (shawoman?) exorcist; boy tries to kill a dog; blood on walls; Peter and the wolf; it turns out the boy DID take those rocks after all (shocker)! Now dad has to fight to save the fam (even though mom was the one who did all the work/research).
Maybe it’s obvious from my synopsis that I didn’t like The Darkness. Maybe it’s not. (i don’t know what you’re thinking. i’m not a mind reader) The sheer number of plot developments is dizzying. Especially when you realize the only one going anywhere is the one about demons released from their carefully arranged rocks prison. Some sort of family drama is half-baked into this plot. Is it about the struggles of raising a son with autism? Is it about the struggles of raising a teenage girl with bulimia? The struggles of staying sober for the sake of your health/sanity/family? The struggles of staying monogamous? Nope. Or, if it is, NONE of those things is fleshed out well enough for me to be anything but confused as to why it is included in the film. Was Greg McLean going for a broken/flawed Poltergeist type family here? Or an even shittier Sinister family (remember, dad was a bit of a lying asshole in that one)? Because The Darkness was derivative of both of those films. (with some Insidious thrown in for good measure) This is PG-13 horror at its most tepid. Very little violence is shown. There is a nil body count (spoiler?). The CG supernatural phenomena are just as bad as the old dirty rags and papier-mache demon costumes in the believability department. At every turn, this film disappoints. McLean hasn’t brought ANY of the brutality of his Wolf Creek films or the isolated desperation of Rogue to this clunker. (and Kevin Bacon looks so skinny and sickly that i thought it might be another plot point. but it wasn’t. i guess the family drama shoehorn broke)
The Final Cut: The Darkness is a derivative, lackluster supernatural horror film that buries its few (very few) scares deep in a disjointed and unrelatable family drama.