Bad movies come in all types of flavours, and with that in mind, I intend to keep these bad movie reviews focused on particular themes every month. This month (and almost definitely not for the last time), we're dealing with some of the worst-ranked supernatural horror movies out there. But the truth is, sometimes some of those "terrible" movies are something I can manage to find something I like about. If nothing else, titles like 'The Room' and 'Troll 2' lend themselves as being guilty pleasures. Junk food for the brain when you just feel like indulging.
I felt like kicking this month off by taking a look at a movie I feel has been long since forgotten (and probably with good reason) called 'Darkness' - not to be confused with 2016's 'The Darkness' or 'Darkness Falls', which came out just one year later. This was a pretty average haunted house movie that took a lot of influence from other, better material like 'The Shining' and 'Amityville Horror'. In other words, Dad starts to go crazy, and it's all centered on some sort of supernatural element at work. This is no different, really, except there's also a sort of "cult" element to it - which 'The Shining' eventually got to anyway with 'Doctor Sleep', but at least we can say that happened after this movie.
Still though, even reading that director Jaume Balagueró drew influence from 'Shining' and 'Amityville', that doesn't necessarily mean this is gonna be seen as "good" so much as "copying". Something like this just makes the audience think that they've seen it done before, but better; especially when both stories (never mind the movies) are complete classics that have captured our imaginations and gripped us with fear since they were published. It's hard to imagine a 2002 film that's far too similar to these stories is going to stand out. But oh, it gets better!
Before I dive in, I have to mention that there was a lot of seemingly disjointed material here, and there were a few times when I got confused as to what was going on. That might just be a "me" thing (usually is), but there did seem to be a lot going on here that felt unnecessary, or had me asking "what? why?". All in all, one CAN figure it out, but it just feels like there's a lot of odd filler here, and this could have worked out fairly well as something I could see on my TV instead (at the time, I mean). I mean, if a couple of things were changed, this could have been an episode of 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?', as it delivers just about as many scares.
The opening credits show that something has occurred that has a kid running for his life. The surviving kid narrates to, presumably, a psychologist, and we get that 5 other kids have gone missing during an occult ritual. Forty years later, we cut to a family of four, moving into their new, completely secluded house. So secluded that at one point, a city bus stops right in front of it! We're introduced to Dad, Mark (Iain Glen), Mom, Maria (Lena Olin), teenage daughter, lead character, and obvious "survivor girl", Regina (Anna Paquin), and token kid connected to the paranormal, little brother, Paul (Stephan Enquist).
Located not too far away from them, however, is Mark's father, Albert (Giancarlo Giannini), who's also a doctor. Their short distance from each other is mainly for convenience to help with Mark's progressing Huntington's Disease, which seems to be making him more and more aggressive. It's not long before young Paul starts seeing a small group of kids, lurking in the shadows, and making him afraid of the dark for the first time. When Paul is seen with bruises, fingers point at Dad. But soon, Regina starts to wonder if it might have something to do with the house, itself... just like 'Shining' and 'Amityville', again.
Regina and her love-interest, Carlos (Fele Martínez) go looking for answers as to the house's past, and what went on there. All is eventually revealed by the end of the film, but one can't claim these reveals to be too surprising, so much as completely predictable. I have to say that for me, there really wasn't a lot here to send shivers up my spine - last of all a group of ghouls who seemingly don't need to be there and, I swear, just look like different versions of the same 'Dick Tracy' villain. I mean, it's right up there with "Darth Maul" popping up in 'Sinister' - except 'Sinister' was actually still a bit more thrilling.
In the end, a lot of the film's themes seem to be about the "power" of the darkness, and why we should fear it. But even having said that, I feel like I'm reading too much into it. If you want to see this story essentially done in a similar way but much, much better, do a back-to-back of 'The Shining' and 'Doctor Sleep'. They both make for better, more thrilling horror flicks, and together, they pretty much have the same ingredients as this. They're great stories, too, as opposed to this somewhat jumbled mess that uses lame visuals and jump scares to fill its gaps.
This one seemed to have come and gone upon its release, and completely swept under the rug. It's not really hard to see why, especially since there has been a lot of better material released since then. More than anything, this felt like a cash-in idea, using Paquin to their advantage, remembering that at this point in time, she was a big deal as Rogue in 'X-Men'. By the end, it just ends up being a badly done, discombobulated mess of a copy of better material. BUT it does make for a good drinking game - 1 shot for every time Anna Paquin calls out for any of her family, be it "Paul", "Dad" or "Mom".
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