DIRECTOR: Greg McLean
The Taylor Family have just returned home from a family and friends vacation to the Grand Canyon. Little do they realise that their autistic son who had an accident in the mountains took five rocks from a sacred Navajo site. Once they return home to their everyday lives, strange things start to happen around their house. They begin being haunted by spirits who look to harm their family.
Being Australian, I have a pretty big soft spot for Australian horror movies and their directors. Greg McLean is one director that I've been watching closely ever since he released his brilliant debut film, Wolf Creek. He followed it up with the fun creature feature Rogue and even managed to create a much bigger and more violent sequel to his debut with Wolf Creek 2. The next logical step in his career would be to tackle a Hollywood produced, supernatural horror film.
I remember being excited to watch The Darkness as I saw that Greg McLean's name attached to the project. I thought if any genre director could add his gorgeous visual style and a disturbing quality to a supernatural horror film, it would be Greg McLean. It wasn't until the reviews started pouring in for The Darkness that I began to worry. I'm not one to usually listen to critics but the mauling that this movie got, certainly didn't go unnoticed by me.
I went into The Darkness expecting the worst kind of supernatural horror film after reading the horrible reviews that the movie received. While I didn't love the movie myself. I certainly didn't hate the film as much as a lot of the critics did. I was still able to find moments within The Darkness that worked for me. Does that warrant the movie a positive review? No, it doesn't. The movie is sadly the first film from Greg McLean where I felt didn't live up to his previous films and his talent.
I found that The Darkness feels very heavily influenced by other supernatural horror movies. This is Greg McLean's attempt at Poltergeist. It has a bit of the J-Horror feel thrown in towards the end of the film with the portal and hands scene. I think one of the elements that felt original with the plot of The Darkness was the mythology of the Navajo demons being the villains. Each demon that was able to transfer to an animal was also a neat touch. It gave the film a range of new ideas that felt fresh compared to a lot of supernatural ghost stories of late.
The Darkness feels like it's almost two different films spliced into one. The Darkness swings between a marital, family drama and a supernatural horror film. Both of them get roughly the equal amount of screentime. One, unfortunately, works better than the other in the final film. In a horror film, you pray and hope that the supernatural element will be the winning element and sadly in The Darkness this is not the case here. It turns out the drama is the best thing.
The horror element of the movie is one that relies heavily on loud noises and jump scares. It uses a lot of the old horror tropes that we've come to expect, and they just don't land. The movie is never really scary or even suspenseful. The movie really falls short when it comes to being the scare-fest that I was hoping for from McLean. I was disappointed as he has managed to unnerve and keep me on the edge successfully in his other films. With The Darkness, he fails by all accounts pure and simple.
The marital and family drama element worked a lot better than the horror element. I actually found myself invested in Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell's marriage. I felt for their characters when allegations of cheating arise in the movie. The two parts of the family drama that I wasn't so crash hot on was the autistic son or their horribly self-centred daughter. The bulimic storyline of the daughter is sort of put out there and never discussed again once it's revealed. The vacationing family that also appears on holiday in the beginning also come and goes. These storylines sort of feel forgotten and left on the cutting-room floor.
The performances from Radha Mitchell and Kevin Bacon are solid. They really hold this movie together. I was rooting for them when their marriage looked like it was falling apart. Lucy Fry is written as the most self-absorbed and bratty teenage girl, she was just dislikeable in this film. David Mazouz as the autistic son plays it well. However, he becomes tiring by the end with stupidly written character decisions to get him into certain situations. The parents are partly to blame in these moments. Jennifer Morrison, Paul Reiser, and Ming-Na Wen round out a talented cast but are entirely underused.
Lastly, Greg McLean's visuals will close off my review. The Darkness is a gorgeous looking film. The beginning scenes in the Grand Canyon are well done. One shot I loved was the above shot of the cars pulling onto the highway and away from the oncoming storm. If you want beautiful scenes of landscapes, Greg McLean has it nailed down. If he ever gets tired of horror films, I think he'd make an impressive looking nature documentary. What The Darkness does wrong is having the film set mostly indoors as Greg McLean is such a visual storyteller. It hinders all chances of us getting to witness his gorgeous cinematography.
DEATH TOLL: 0
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Blood pouring out of a kids mouth.
- A kid tries to kill a cat offscreen.
- A kid bites his sister's arm.
- Glass flies across the room and cuts people.
- A dog attacks a girls arm.
- A dog gets euthanised.
- Murals of blood are seen all over the wall.
When it comes to Greg McLean movies, The Darkness will hopefully be his first and last of his films to disappoint me. The Darkness will hopefully be the only film in his filmography to have a black spot against its name. With some solid lead performances and neat visuals, it's not enough to save the movie from being scare-free. The movie also lacks any real suspense or tension. Worth a watch but nothing new in the realm of supernatural horror movies.