Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Darkness (2016)

On a visit to the Grand Canyon autistic-to-keep-the- plot-“mysterious”-for-longer youngest of the Taylor family Michael (David Mazouz) picks up some nice little stones which unfortunately free some animal-themed evil spirits once incarcerated by the Anasazi. This sort of thing is really bound for giving a family trouble. So, soon after they come home, the Taylors – also including mother Bronny (Radha Mitchell), father Peter (Kevin Bacon) and sister Stephanie (Lucy Fry) – have to fight off random paranormal phenomena as well as suffer through equally random attacks of Lifetime movie-style melodrama done very badly.

Praise be to The Darkness’s director Greg McLean for making a mainstream horror movie not fixated on jump scares. Alas, that’s the only thing the film has going for it, for everything else here put together forms a practically archetypal concoction of all that is wrong with contemporary mainstream horror - and nothing of what’s right with it.

Worst offender is the terribly sloppy writing. The script keeps things so vague I honestly couldn’t even tell you if the dysfunction presented in the Taylors (of course the usual foursome, because we don’t want to get creative by having a family of three or five) is supposed to be caused by the evil spirits hitchhiking their way from the Grand Canyon (Anasazi spirit prisoner security is kind of lacking, I have to say), if it is made worse by it, or if the writers just put some random family melodrama in here to pad out the running time. The film does throw in a few half sentences suggesting it’s all the spirits’ fault in one of its moments of exposition but there’s nothing in what’s actually shown on screen which would bolster that idea. It probably doesn’t matter anyhow, for the perfunctory checklist style way the film treats plot lines like the daughter’s bulimia makes these parts of the plot pointless in any case. And no, of course The Darkness does put zero effort into establishing any kind of baseline of dysfunction for anyone involved so the audience can't put what’s happening during the course of the film into the context of how the family members usually act, leading to a film whose characters have emotions that just come and go randomly for no particular reason apart from their convenience for the plot (such as it is).

Which, come to think of it, is the same feeling I get from the supernatural scenes as well: random crap that lacks any coherence and weight – what’s a “theme”? – and is only in the movie because the three screenwriters didn’t have anything as avantgardistic as a plan what the film is supposed to be and do apart from providing a best of (but worse) of every damn cliché about haunted families you’ve seen in a horror movie in the last ten years. The whole mess of the script also includes sure signs of total disinterest by everyone involved like repeating exposition about its random core haunting two and a half times (to help out those in the audience with a damaged short term memory, one supposes), and a finale that is about as much a culmination of everything the characters experienced and learned before as I am an alien invader from Yuggoth.

The whole of The Darkness feels terribly underdeveloped, not like a proper finished movie made by seasoned professionals, but like the first draft of something that might have become a decent if unspectacular horror movie if anyone had cared enough about it (or its suffering audience) to put the work in.

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