Kevin Bacon is an actor who is a touch underrated – he’s been in some fantastic stuff, but nowadays spends his time extolling the virtues of fast wi-fi and broadband. If The Darkness is an example of the kind of scripts Bacon chooses to do nowadays, however, I hope he sticks away from the big screen for a while – this movie is lame, horror you’ve seen a thousand times before, except those instances made it scary (or, at the very least, jumpy).
Peter Taylor (Kevin Bacon), his wife Bronny (Radha Mitchell) and their two children return to Los Angeles after a fun-filled vacation to the Grand Canyon. Unbeknownst to them, their young son Michael (David Mazouz) found some mysterious rocks there, and has brought them back with him. Soon, he has a new imaginary friend, his behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and strange events soon begin to plague the family. A bit of research suggests that the supernatural beings in their house are demons connected to an ancient Indian tribe, and that they aim to drag young children into their world, triggering an event called ‘The Darkness.’ The family now find themselves in a battle with a force that prey on their worst fears.
As the film starts, there is a sense that this could actually be something different – we only need to get a few minutes in and that hope soon evaporates. The Darkness then becomes a by-the-numbers horror flick that fails to even be that. This kind of film is normally padded with jump scares and, much as I dislike that, it would’ve made a nice alternative to the total lack of atmosphere this movie peddles. There’s one good fright, to be fair, but the trailer completely ruined it. In the meantime, we’re left with a demon that likes to turn on the taps.
Fair play to Bacon and Mitchell for trying to act their way through this movie, but The Darkness’ sketch of family woes is the bare bones of one. There are hints of darkness – Bacon’s father had an affair at some point in the past, and the big sister (Lucy Fry) is bulimic for all of a scene – but these details seem added in to make up for the lack of actual character.
It also transpires that young Michael is autistic, and you can imagine how sensitively the movie handles that. It is the reason that the family are so slow to act on any of the supernatural facets (weird stuff is going on – must be the autistic kid) and it is often treated as some kind of alien quality, as though he is markedly different from the rest of his family. Autism is the film’s easy answer – apparently, autistic children are far more prone to spectral hauntings, as explained by the necessary expositional Google search and Youtube video.
The moment I saw the opening shot, I was immediately reminded of the new Poltergeist – fittingly, then, the movie ended with the appearance of an elderly medium who comes to vanquish the evil spirits (I actually muttered ‘this house is clean’ under my breath). Every horror movie now seems to have to incorporate this sequence somewhere – the moment one of the wife’s friends began talking about someone they knew who could help with this kind of situation, I was just bracing myself for her to turn up with whatever artefacts she uses to get rid of the spirits.
The movie truly ends, though, with a scene that you knew was coming from the off, and as the credits roll around, there is an overwhelming air of frustration. The spectre haunting this movie isn’t a native Indian ghost, nor even one of fear – rather, it is one of disappointment. McLean can do horror – the first Wolf Creek is testament to that – so what happened here?
Director: Greg McLean
Cast: Jennifer Morrison (Joy Carter), Lucy Fry (Stephanie Taylor), Kevin Bacon (Peter Taylor), David Mazouz (Michael Taylor), Ming-Na Wen (Wendy), Radha Mitchell (Bronny Taylor)
Running Time: 92 Mins