Although I’ve been writing about starting in on Hitchcock, I made the mistake of assuming his unofficial title, the Master of Suspense, is synonymous with the Master of Horror. It’s not. I rented a box set of mystery thrillers, which had to go back. Luckily, sitting there at the friendly neighborhood Redbox was a little number called The Darkness, a new supernatural horror movie complete with Kevin Bacon and a group of otherworldly spirits bent on…well, we never really figure that out.
While in my heart Tremors will always be Bacon’s best moment, he showed up in fine form for this movie. Unfortunately for Bacon, the rest of the movie is unbearably standard, playing on all the tropes, all the clichés, and not even having the dignity to do so with grace. The film centers on the Taylor Family’s fight against Native American spirits their young autistic son happened to stir up while exploring the southwestern outdoors.
On a camping trip with family friends, Michael Taylor finds himself in an ancient Anasazi holy site, and he does what any young kid would do: he removes the rocks with the sweet-ass carvings on them. As luck would have it, those rocks played some sort of role in keeping a couple dangerous spirits behind bars, and now those spirits are busting out. Peter (Val) and his wife Bronny (Radha Mitchell) are already at odds with each other, and the new haunting doesn’t exactly help matters any. Throw in the angsty teenage daughter with an eating disorder and you have a family ripe to be torn apart.
Before we go any further, let us count the tropes.
1: Native American spirits. The only thing missing is the burial ground.
2: The troubled child that no one understands. In The Darkness, he’s autistic. The Babadook did it better.
3: Stressful parental relations. Adultery, their child’s autism, their other child’s bulimia, and the husband with too much work to do.
4: The believer vs. the nonbeliever. Bronny knows far ahead of time the solution is spiritual, but Peter is much too logical for such foolishness.
5: “Exotic” saviors with knowledge of the spiritual world. A Spanish-speaking grandmother-granddaughter team show up to fight the evil and teach the white-bread Taylors a thing or two about unity.
Other than the spirit animals, that’s pretty much the whole movie. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re never really told what the spirits want, and if we are, it doesn’t add anything to the movie. Luckily, Paul Reiser makes a surprising appearance as the douchebag boss, adding pressure to Peter’s work life. Obnoxious, cheesy, and disgustingly misogynistic to boot, Reiser’s character sucks almost as much as Burke did back in ’86. Almost. He’s not exactly a trope, but he’s important enough to be mentioned.
The Final Count
The film spends plenty of time making sure you are quite distraught at the prospect of having to trade places with Peter or Bronny Taylor, but does little for the supernatural development of the story. Things jump disjointedly from one creepy event to another, and although there’s a general path of escalation, the supernatural happenings are much too disconnected from each other. It never feels as though things are getting worse for the family; it feels like their lives just kind of suck. Even though none of the acting can really be slammed (Michael’s comes the closest), things in the movie simply don’t link up. The reliance on tropes left the movie devoid of personality and without any semblance of fluidity.
Better skip The Darkness unless you’re about to die of boredom. Even then, this one might not save you. We’ll head back to the classics with The Haunting for the next installment of our Month of Halloween here at Postard.