DIRECTOR: Austin Reading
WRITER: Vikram Weet
Madison, her boyfriend Jake, and her best friend Izzy decide to break into Madison's childhood home. Madison has decided to return to her childhood home as she wants to grab some of her possessions that were left behind after her mother had become mentally unstable and tried to murder her as a baby. The house is being demolished, and her return will soon awaken the house trapping the three of them inside of it.
Where do you begin with a movie like Darkness Rising? Looking at the poster for the film, I thought I was in for an absolute mind melt. The poster has elements of Stairs by M.C. Escher, the vastness of space and time, a forest, and a woman with murky black eyes. It genuinely looked bizarre. I expected something special. I didn't watch any trailers before going into the movie as I didn't want to spoil anything about this film. I hoped for something that would break the mould.
Darkness Rising is nothing like I thought it would be, it's sadly littered with problems. This is a movie that has some intriguing ideas at its centre but can't execute a single one of them. After I finished watching the film. I thought, to myself, what the hell did I just watch. If this was a film that a studio released. It would be the sort of film that studios would drop into a January time slot with no critic screening and pray to god that they make their money back opening weekend.
I'll start with the first problem that I had with Darkness Rising. The film is bookended by two scenes that are connected but make no sense by the time that the end of the movie rolls around. They involve a little girl and her father who is played by the great Ted Raimi. The opening scene see's them frolicking through the woods, and they both end up witnessing something horrible. While it eventually reveals a connection to the main character at the end and what they observe. It feels like it makes absolutely no sense. This happens a lot throughout the film.
Another glaring plot hole that is never explained comes down to the childhood home and entire setting of the movie. The house is clearly its own entity. It makes people see their greatest fears. It also makes people kill and torture themselves. However, when all three of our main characters break in after they return to the house, it's all boarded up. Yet, it's in pristine condition when they enter it. There is no explanation as to why the house hasn't had homeless living in it. Why haven't burglars broken in and stolen the contents? It seems very unlikely.
The film introduces many different elements but never explains a single one of them. We have a dog that guards the house. It can reanimate and come back from the dead when killed and can transport to any part of the grounds outside the house when our three main characters try to escape. The house is also surrounded by a forcefield. We have the number five introduced as the number that an ancient evil needs to bring on something evil, but all of these elements amount to nothing in the end. You'll be left scratching your head instead of getting answers.
The acting is pretty hit and miss in Darkness Rising. The worst example of this is our leading actress Tara Holt. She is gorgeous and leading actress material, but her entire performance is all over the place. At times, I was wondering if they were watching the dailies. Did the director do multiple takes or just went with the first one every time. It was uncomfortable to watch. She is lucky she had Bryce Johnson and Katrina Law as her companions as they both seemed a lot better in their respective roles. Not even Ted Raimi can save this film. His scenes feel like an afterthought.
Now we come to all the gore, violence, scares, and tension. I thought that Darkness Rising sadly lacked in those departments as well. The gore itself has a few moments that will likely gross people out who have a weak stomach for lots of eye trauma. The blacked out eyes on the poster are clearly a hint of things to come. When it comes to the scares, the movie at least tries to deliver the jump scares and suspense. While it's not very successful at executing them, I still can't hate it for at least trying.
Lastly, I think the film is well directed. For a lower budget horror film, I thought that director Austin Reading tried to add a bit of flair to a movie that is set in one location. The camera pans up through floorboards, spins and spirals up staircases, speeds up and slows down throughout the house and film. I thought that they at least tried to work in as much visual trickery with the cinematography. It's not a bad looking film. I think there is talent there from the director. He just needs a more coherent story to work with, in the near future.
DEATH TOLL: 3
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A babies crib is found empty and covered in blood.
- A woman pulls a shard of glass out of her leg.
- A man slams his hand down on a nail.
- A man is attacked by a dog.
- A dog is hit and killed by a fire poker.
- A man is seen hanging from a railing.
- A woman is stabbed in the eye with a key.
- A woman is smacked in the head with a vase.
- A woman pours bleach all over her face.
- A dead rotting child is found in a bathtub.
- A man is stabbed in the stomach.
- A man is impaled through the eyeball, and his eyeball falls out.
- A doll is seen bleeding from the eyes.
- A girl dies from her injuries sustained in a haunted house.
Darkness Rising is a film that has a pretty interesting poster and tries for some out there themes. We have time lapses, alternate realities, a supernatural death house, and forcefields. Sadly, the writer is unable to coherently connect a single thing in the story. By the time that the credits roll around, the movie ends up leaving the entire audience with more questions than answers. It's a mess of a movie. Some gruesome gore and great use of cinematography can't save this movie from being a pretty wildly uneven story. Look elsewhere for supernatural chills.