And to make it legal:
Flawed mother (Bello) returns to her husband James (Bean) with their daughter Sarah (Stuckey) for a visit. James now lives in the Welsh countryside and once the duo arrive, Sarah mysteriously vanishes in the ocean. The couple soon finds out that she’s trapped in some kind of purgatory while they have to deal with another little girl who seems to have retuned from the dead. And how was your day? Better than theirs I‘m sure.
One of the living for one of the dead.
When fellow Canuck director John Fawcett steam rolled on the genre scene with GINGER SNAPS he made quite the ripples in our little appalling loving pool. Now the man returns to our fold with yet another gripping and chilling exercise called THE DARK. Did it live up to the sly cleverness and sheer terror that was Ginger Snaps? Well for me it equaled it.
The first thing that struck me about THE DARK was its striking setting, top-notch photography and able use of quick cuts. The flick looked wonderful and was mucho competent in getting the right reactions out of me! Actually it looked better than wonderful…it looked…I’m going to use a new word here…LUSH. Yes you heard me…LUSH. I don’t fully know what that means, but it feels right and this film was it! Tag your own definition to it and call me in the morning at a wrong number to let me know how that worked out for ya. In lament terms, I was hypnotized by the images at hand. Oppressive waves crashing in beautifully on edgy rocks, menacingly vast yet claustrophobic mountainside and an old house that gave me the willies in its dark and decrepit make. The stage was set; what about the play you may ask?
The story in the house was a captivating one, obviously aiming to a hit a nerve with an older audience via its mother/daughter conflict and its emphasis on the themes of regret and quest for redemption. The film did tackle those elements in a fairly sophomore way though, but you know what? I bought them, went with them and hence got into the game at play. The mother/daughter dynamic was what drove the film and I was right there with them, clinging to the edge of my seat as to what was going to happen next. Which brings me to the horror between the buns. Personally, I liked the concept and what they were trying to achieve with it. It was unique within its clichéd-ness, meaning they tweaked the usual conventions around just enough for it to come across as original. And it worked! I jumped at all the boo scares, got tense at the build-up/wam bam scenes and felt chills up my toes (the big ones) when the ghostly apparitions/tricks started to kick in. Tag to that; a on the ball Maria Bello, a highly competent Sean Bean who brought more to the table than what was on the page, an emotionally charged nature that sucked me in, a compelling mystery and an unpredictability that kept me riveted to the screen and you get a strong little spook for the whole family…yes your dog/cat/bitch in closet too!
Alas, this DARK blanket had stains on it. Rumor has it, that the cut I saw was the third cut (not to the director’s liking) and that they added some footage, which contributed to its contrivances. Either way; the first block of the film dragged on for a tad too long (Snip-snip anyone?), the mother/daughter head butting could’ve went deeper in terms of substance (needed more meat in those flashbacks), the father’s role in the film wasn’t taken far enough (Why did he split up with his girl again?) while the finale, although somewhat freaking kool, revealed some gaping holes in logic that I just couldn’t gap when thinking about it afterwards. Kool ending but it made no sense within the rules established in the film.
Within this Dark let there be light (Somebody shoot me, I’m going the pretentious way over here). I truly enjoyed this picture where it oozed of talent, heart and ambition. But at the same time you felt other hands in there, hands that blemished what was once a near perfect masterpiece. If I had a hatchet nearby and knew whom those hands belonged to; I would chop them off. And fuck their sisters. With that said, there was enough to love here to elevate it above and beyond most of the GARBAGE we’re getting today. I’ll take THE DARK over THE FOG REMAKE any day. Here’s to John Fawcett getting “Final Cut” on his next horror adventure; the man’s got talent and I want to witness it unhinged. EXPLORE THESE SHADOWS!
Maria Bello (Adèle) played the selfish, booze thirsty yet loving and damaged mother perfectly. Another fine performance to her resume. The great Sean Bean (James) took a weakly written part and gave it depth via his genuine show. Abigail Stone (Ebrill) and Sophie Stuckey (Sarah) were effectual and layered as the two little girls that could…one dead…one not quite yet.
We get more suggested violence than graphic (like an O.F. spike in the head). With that said, the flick did showcase some cringing moments without going the “show it all way”. Subtle but effective.
T & A:
Does Sean Bean’s blonde streaked hair count as TNA? Cause that’s all we got here! If so have a blast! See History of Violence to see Bello’s Belloes!
John Fawcett broke my wrist with brilliant shots, spine-chilling atmosphere, arresting use of slow motion, sucker punching boo scares and a knack at capitalizing on his awe inspiring setting. The brilliant cinematography should also be commended.
We get a powerful and varied score that channeled the images going on onscreen perfectly and then supported them like a champ. The bang on use of eerie sounds and frightening silence ruined me and made sure to keep me in the game.
The Dark looked fantastic, delved into its characters enough for me to care, slam dunked good performances, put out a semi novel premise, made me feel and gave me a couple of good, hefty frights. It's unfortunate that some of the relationships fell a tad short and that over tinkering in the editing room (my assumption) caused some lagging in the pacing & some plot holes in the conclusion. Straight up though; even with those snags in its trunk; I loved The Dark, for the movie it was and could’ve been. If you ever need some muscle to keep slime balls suits away Mr. Fawcett. Call me, my trusty machete and I would be more than happy to assist you. See it!
Some of The Dark was shot at the Isle of Man, a place I have to visit after seeing this film; the rest of the flick was shot at a Studio in London.
The flick was based on the novel SHEEP by Simon Maginn (I hear there's not much left of that in the film) and the screenplay was written by Stephen Massicotte.