With an overbearing score and a script that simply cannot get to grips with what supernatural influence it wants to take from, The Darkness never gets going. Resulting in a flawed, disjointed film that fails its audience in almost every way possible.
Spanning one hundred years, we start in the present day where writer Lisa (Amelia Eve) and entrepreneur David (Cyril Blake) are desperate for a brief escape from their hectic London lives. They take up residence in an old remote home in Ireland, where Lisa has plans to start writing her new book, and David has a business plan to work on. When strange things begin to occur, Lisa uses her investigative skills and discovers a memoir of a woman called Niav (Katherine Hartshorne) and delves deep into the past. But unlocking long-closed doors has awoken a dormant evil spirit…and now the nightmare begins.
As the couple find themselves embroiled in a century-long mystery of possessions, changelings and witchcraft, their only hope of help comes in the form of a strange priest named George. Can they escape the demonic entity and the dark past deep in the walls of this terror-filled domain?
Problems arise right from the start for The Darkness as we are barely introduced to our characters as they are so thinly written. So when they arrive at the house, there is scarcely any time to acquaint ourselves with them before oddities begin. By leaving any ounce of subtly on the production floor, the film meanders far too slowly for its own good. Attempts are made to widen the plot as Lisa begins to lose herself within the house and its supernatural occurrences, but whatever scares are meant to be present have long been lost somewhere else. There are plenty of good intentions here, but none of it sadly ever connects in the ways it is intended to.
Other than Amelia Eve, everyone seems to be horribly miscast, non more so than Cyril Blake, who can’t go through one scene without having a smirk on his face about something. They are meant to be this loving couple, yet there is zero chemistry between the two. Perhaps if he said babe more, we would understand how close they are as a married couple. For the most part, from this cast, it is daytime TV acting, and no one seems to want to elevate themselves above it.
Eve is the obvious standout, doing more with facial reactions than the rest of the stone-faced cast that she is surrounded with. She is the only reason for the audience to stay and continue with the film due to how poor everyone else is; they all struggle to elicit any form of emotions or showing the tension that should be happening. On the other hand, Eve is trying her best to bring intensity to the piece that it firmly becomes a one-woman show. If it wasn’t for her, we would feel no threat at all as characters meander their way to the conclusion.
The obvious cause of a lot of the issues with The Darkness sadly falls with writer-director Tharun Mohan. He seemingly wrote himself into a corner here and then, for some reason unbeknownst to anything in a nighttime scene. Lisa sees Niav sitting on a bench out in the garden, that’s all well and good for a jump scare, but after that scene has finished, we get an utterly pointless return to that bench when Niav flashes up once or twice as if we just saw a glitch. It looks totally preposterous that this got through the edit as it does nothing to improve the film in any form.
So much is wrong with the direction and script in The Darkness, scenes that should be building the tension for the final act do nothing, and by bringing in so much folklore, you sense that the film never really knows what it is trying to tell. Instead of picking one and focusing on one theme, it tries to throw mud at the wall to see if it sticks, leaving us cold and detached from the jumbled story.
Wearing its influences on its sleeve, it never has the capabilities to enhance itself. Dutch angles need to have a purpose, to show that something is off either with our characters or surroundings. With The Darkness, we get these angles immediately as the couple enter the house or at random times throughout the film; it just doesn’t make sense or work and confuses them as to their inclusion here. It needs to build, and with a movie with zero builds, it just looks off.
The score is so maddeningly overbearing in this film; as soon as something remotely scary begins, these sharp strings attack your ears as if their sole intention is to cause bleeding. Stewart Dugdale’s score is just far too overbearing for its own good and becomes a point of distraction for the Darkness. It doesn’t need the levels to be that high and honestly removes you from the film, especially considering how low the dialogue is in comparison.
With such a prominent score, in what should be a quiet film, with some jumpscare moments, their effectiveness is wasted by having this booming score over it, especially when silence would give a better response. A piano theme comes up a lot that never works, such as when Lisa is opening the chest, it doesn’t work with what we are seeing, and it is such a shame, as what we see on the screen (apart from those nonsensical Dutch angles) does work.
With so many faults present in The Darkness, it is a damn shame that once things become a little bit interesting, there are only 10 minutes left. With so much junk in the beginning and the middle, we never get the chance to care for Lisa, and with an actress such as the game Amelia Eve, it is such a waste.
In the last images of the film, the camera moves in from above to put that point firmly across. You think you are going to get something interesting, it is such a good shot that you believe firmly in your heart that it won’t be wasted, yet those damn strings start up, and everything starts back up with little fuss. It seems that Mohan never knew what to do when we got the chance to witness the actually scary or at least a creepy moment. A film that can only be remembered as a what could have been.
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