Review 46: Darkness (1/5)

Darkness

Directed by Jaume Balaguero

Starring Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen, Stephan Enquist

Released on October 3, 2002

Running time 1h 42m

Rated PG-13 (For this review, I watched the unrated version)

Genre: Horror

First off, just because I’m LDS, don’t expect me to moan and complain about Anna Paquin’s recent revelation of being bisexual. I still think of her as a fellow human. However, I think she’s made a potentially damaging mistake. That’s all I will say. I’m not here to talk about Paquin’s sexuality. I’m here to review Darkness. And no, it has nothing to do with Darkness Falls, thank heaven.

Our story begins with a prologue that actually has something to do with the rest of the film. However, by the time the film was over, I had completely forgotten about it, so screw it. Yes, I know, I just pulled this gimmick in my The Haunting of Molly Hartley review, and I already regret bringing that thing up. But I definitely remember one thing about the prologue. The same bloody flashes are recycled throughout the movie again and again and again. It’s PG-13 blood, but blood nonetheless.

I know that the title says “Darkness”, but during the title sequence, the title is completely unintelligible.

We transition to a small American family that has moved into a “never before inhabited” house in Spain. Where in Spain? Madrid? Seville? Valencia? The film doesn’t say. It’s probably near “Seaport, Eastern Mediterranean”, or “Somewhere in China”. Why have they moved into this house that has “HAUNTED” written all over it? I think the film mentioned it once or twice, but I’ve forgotten. Something to do with the father, Mark (Iain Glen) (Oh, hai, Mark {No, I will not be reviewing The Room in the future}) going back to school? I don’t know. Anyway, we are also introduced to Maria (Lena Olin), Paul (Stephan Enquist), and Regina (Anna Paquin, who I wish I could see more of in True Blood {don’t judge me}). Strangely, Mark is Scottish, Maria is Swedish, Paul is Latino (I think), and Regina is Canadian. What a racially diverse family that clearly cannot exist in the real world. Another interesting thing is this: despite having lived in the house for three weeks, the family has still not completely unpacked. Wow.

Before I go into the stringy, tough, overcooked meat of the plot, I must mention that just barely before it does, we hear a voice on the radio talk about an impending solar eclipse. But not just any solar eclipse – a SPECIAL type of solar eclipse that happens only once every forty years. Gee, I wonder if this is going to be a plot point.

Anyway, the plot kind of takes off when Mark begins to suffer from periodical mental breakdowns, and Paul becomes afraid of the dark for the first time. Paul also begins drawing crude drawings of generic children having their throats slit. This disturbs Regina, but Maria brushes it off.

And then we are introduced to the type of gimmick that makes up the majority of the scares throughout the movie: a shadow, or, in this case, g-g-g-g-g-ghooooost walking across the screen accompanied by a thump or instrumental sting. Not only is it not scary, but it gets old quick. The second most frequent scare in the movie is lights flickering and/or going out.

The plot thickens, like a meaty stew left out in the sun, when Regina and her boyfriend Carlos (Fele Martinez) come up with the idea that something is wrong with their house. They meet the house’s designer (Fermin Reixach), who tells them that the house was intentionally designed to be egg-shaped in order to suffice for a supernatural ritual involving the entity Ouroboros (mentioned only once in the entire film), where seven children must be sacrificed by “hands that love them”. The phrase “hands that love them” is seriously overused. This ritual must coincide with – GUESS WHAT? – the eclipse that occurs only once every forty years! I told you it’d be a plot point. Because OF COURSE the next one is imminent.

And then the plot sours like burned bread when, for some strange reason, Regina learns that her grandfather was one of the cult that attempted to perform this ritual forty years ago. There actually were seven children in the previous ritual, but not only did the grandfather not genuinely love Mark, but Mark escaped.

Regina races back home to find her father in the middle of a nervous breakdown which has caused him to attempt a pill overdose. However, this caused him to choke. Regina and Maria perform an emergency tracheotomy on him, but this inadvertently kills him. Considering that Regina and Maria genuinely love Mark, the ritual is now complete. What does this cause to happen in the real world? I don’t know. The film doesn’t say. Anyway, the darkness in the house kills the lights and Maria. We also see a poorly rendered figure that will eventually be perfected in the Grave Encounters duology. The darkness – wait, what? When was the darkness in this house ever sentient? Anyway (I really say that a lot), Carlos arrives and picks up Regina and Paul in his car and drives away. But UH-OH! PLOT TWIST! The REAL Carlos then arrives at the house and is killed by the darkness. It is revealed that the Carlos driving Regina and Paul away is a trick played on them by the darkness, and the film ends as they drive into a dark tunnel.

I must mention two particular scenes. One, in which Mark finds a photograph of three bald men with black, wide, hollow eyes. Two, about forty minutes from the end, in which Regina finds this photo in the darkened house. However, the center man is missing from the painting, leaving a black blotch on the photo. To understand why I found this so creepy, just look up the The Hands Resist Him painting urban legends. Damn, is it creepy. It is a major pity that Darkness chose not to utilize this idea. Upon seeing this sequence, I literally shouted, “Oh, NO!” and then was incredibly disappointed that the idea was not used.

Anna Paquin was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Piano. You would be hard-pressed to find out how, as she gives a dismal performance in Darkness. This film hurts even more considering that this director, Jaume Balaguero, directed the fantastic REC and two of its sequels.

It also hurts even more that despite its plot holes, subpar acting, and cheap scares, Darkness was on the cusp of actually being half decent. The “missing man from the painting” scene was SO CREEPY!

Close but no cigar.

Final verdict: 1 out of 5 stars. It would have gotten a .5/5 if not for that one scene.

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