I normally take a little more time to reflect between viewing and "re-viewing" a new release, but I honestly want this one off of my plate as quickly as possible.
THE DARKNESS opens in the broadest of daylight as the Taylors enjoy a family-friends outing to the Grand Canyon environs. Autistic son Mikey Taylor (David Mazouz--young Bruce Wayne in GOTHAM), who isn't afraid of things that normally frighten boys his age (remember that--it's going to be important later), literally stumbles across a hidden cache of Amerind spirit stones and takes them home without telling anybody. Then it's "What's that smell? What are those strange noises? What's up with that dog next door? Why is Mikey acting stranger than usual? Why does he suddenly have an imaginary friend named Jennifer?" (Oh, and "Why do I get blamed for everything?" from sister Lucy Fry. That's the only way I could work in a reference to her, because she's in the movie, too.)
Well, all of this proceeds to bring out the nastiest traits in the dysfunctional family. We've got alcoholism! We've got bulimia! We've got a history of adultery! And successful but currently slumming architect Dad (Kevin Bacon) is in denial despite everything he sees, hears and smells! Is this bad karma? Is this negative psychic energy brought on by the faults of the family (especially the parents)?
Ummm... no. It's those rocks that Mikey brought home. They've got Anasazi spirits in them left over from THE X-FILES. And we know this because Mom (Radha Mitchell) is able to instantly Google and YouTube everything she needs to know about halfway through the movie so we can have a narrator spell all of it out for us (including exactly what the spirits plan to do and how to stop them... psst... it has to be done by someone without fear).
Okay... even though EVERYTHING has been spelled out for us and the movie seems to be building to a climax? We STILL have to grind to a halt and consult with the elderly wise woman (and her more English-fluent granddaughter) so they can explain the plot YET AGAIN just as the audience groans "Oh, PLEASE tell me they're not going to spend twenty minutes on yet another 'house-cleansing' ritual in which all hell breaks loose until somebody does what the movie already told us they were going to do half an hour ago?"
This one was withheld from critics and had 'stinker' written all over it as a result. So why did I go? Well, it DID have a good cast and it wasn't their fault. (Paul Reiser also pops in as Bacon's sleazy, chauvinistic boss who--of course--has just a LITTLE spark of good in him.) And I was also interested to see what Greg McLean would do with this material. WOLF CREEK turned me off with its systematic and utterly predictable pattern of sadism and despair, but McLean unquestionably did a fine job with the cast and the atmosphere. Never did see WOLF CREEK 2, but I rather liked ROGUE. And you know what? The opening movement of THE DARKNESS gave me hope for the rest of the movie with some fine Canyon photography and overall buildup. Then the family went back to L.A. and everything went to hell (except for a couple of jump scares that actually work--I'll give it that much). But really... why do the spirits call themselves 'Jennifer?' Why is there so much emphasis on the toys in the attic when they never actually DO anything (we just HAD to get that exploding light bulb bit to remind us of THE EXORCIST, I guess)? Why do the spirits like to turn on water faucets? Why is the TV always tuned to "Public Domain Theatre?" (Hey, I shouldn't complain--at least we got a Gamera cameo out of that!) You gave us the snake, the wolf, the crow and the coyote, so couldn't you at least give us the simple pleasure of seeing an honest-to-goodness buffalo galumphing down the hallway? And most importantly of all, why spell out the entire movie and then make the audience wait for the characters to catch up with THEM?
I suppose it's possible that McLean originally shot something stronger, as numerous sequences of THE DARKNESS play choppily and incoherently, but not even hard gore would have helped here and I won't be seeking out the inevitable 'unrated' cut when it shows up on disc (maybe sometime next week).
Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
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