Yup, another horror movie that I knew I wouldn’t like. That’s usually how I go into them, right? Well, this was no exception. I mean, seriously, half this trailer looked silly rather than scary. SCARY HANDPRINTS COPY-PASTED ON THE WALLS!!! RUN FOR THE FUCKING HILLS!!! About the only interesting thing about the movie was the casting of Radha Mitchell of PITCH BLACK and MAN ON FIRE fame, Jennifer Morrison from TV’s ONCE UPON A TIME, Ming-Na Wen of Disney’s MULAN and TV’s AGENTS OF SHIELD fame, and Kevin Bacon of… well, Kevin Bacon fame. But beyond the cast, this movie didn’t look the least bit interesting or scary. How did it measure up?
This is my honest opinion of: THE DARKNESS
The story opens on the Taylor family camping out near the Grand Canyon. While the parents, Peter and Bronny (Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell respectively) are relaxing and enjoying their time, their teenage daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry) and autistic son Michael (David Mazouz) go explore a trail. Michael wanders off and happens upon a small cave that legend says one held a Native American tribe that believed these hills were haunted by demons. In particular, demons sealed away by way of mystical rocks. The same mystical rocks that Michael finds and decides to take them from their respective resting spots. Time goes by and Michael’s family starts to see that he’s acting stranger than usual, talking to imaginary people, and that strange things begin to happen around the house. The most prominent thing is the sudden cropping of black handprints, and that maybe… the demons that once plagued the Native Americans are trying to come through once again… and this time, they want Michael.
Wow does it bite the big one, kids. Like, really big. But you know what, for every cliche or cute-but-failed attempt to be scary, I have to say that I was having fun with it. I may be part of the minority, as most people might take offense to how this movie portrays autistic kids, but I think I’ll let those folks get behind their causes and I’ll just talk about the movie itself.
First of all, the characters are hilariously phoned in… which is weird because that’s not how they were introduced. The opening scene is them in the Grand Canyon all happy and peppy with their friends and their son. We never see this family again, by the way. Nope, the Taylor family goes on a vacation with them and they’re never seen or even referenced for the rest of the movie. Anyway, focusing back to the subject family, as soon as the next set of scenes roll around, we get the phoned in stuff. Dad’s a workaholic, mom’s a complainy bitch who’s trying to be more involved with her children’s lives. Why? Because we can’t have a single fucking horror movie featuring teenagers who don’t get along with their parents.
And where do I begin with these characters?
Let’s start with Mitchell’s Bronny. First of all, what kind of name is Bronny? Second, she’s a woman who seems to suspect her husband of cheating on her. Here’s the thing, it’s revealed that there was an affair prior to this story. This affair doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the movie. But more than that, she constantly treats the poor guy like garbage, even though later on she says that she forgives him for his transgressions. Well… fuck, lady, then why are you constantly being a bitch toward him if you forgive him??
Oh, and this daughter. For some reason, this is a girl who’s self-conscious about her weight. Stephanie’s seen pinching her skin, and later on revealed to purge the food she eats. Soon as anyone comes through that door, she freaks the fuck out and even gets violent. This adds absolutely nothing to the story. Why do we need to know that she’s got these problems? What does this have to do with the supernatural shit happening in the house? It’s absolutely irrelevant to the story and purely meant for distinguishing. Hell, they don’t even do their own pointless subplots that well, as when Peter takes Steph to a hospital, her reaction to everything is nonchalance as she’s waiting and half-baked smiles when it’s time to talk to the doctor. Fry looks just as uninterested in her character’s motivations as much as the audience does.
Now, let’s talk about that husband of hers. Peter is so phoned in that we had this very same character a couple months ago when THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR came out: the father who refuses to see the supernatural threat, even though he’s been privy to supernatural occurrences. Boy, really pushing the envelope in original characters, aren’t we, writers? I mean, for fuck sake, the TV just suddenly turns on with blaring volume right behind him and there’s not even the slightest “what the fuck” out of him. Why do movies refuse to break the mold on this? It was literally two horror movies ago that we had this same trope.
The cardinal sin of the movie for me was casting my girls Morrison and Wen and only putting them in for one or two scenes. How dare this movie!
But more than just the characters, there’s so many plot threads that go nowhere. I had already mentioned Stephanie’s eating disorder that contributed nothing, but there’s another scene where Bronny drops off Michael at his grandmother’s house. Supernatural shit follows and the grandmother has a heart attack after seeing a possibly not real rattlesnake on her kitchen island (a semi, quasi, not real form of one of the five demons that plagues this family), and it’s mentioned in the next scene by a doctor that she saw Michael try and kill his grandmother’s cat. His parents are so outraged, so completely insulted by this passing of information that they… never talk about it or reference it ever again. So… the fuck was the point in that?
Michael constantly references a malevolent “friend” of his that’s never explained, there’s a healer character that somehow knows how to perform exorcism (very different trades, last I checked), the list goes on.
And what is the deal with these demons? They are unbearably inconsistent. First off, they were sealed away long ago in another dimension. It’s even stated that as long as the rocks that binds them to their little hole in the netherverse (not the actual name, I’m just giving it a dorky name) stays where they are, they can’t hurt anyone. Yet, in Youtube clips (yes, Youtube a source of hardcore research in this movie), it’s clearly shown that these demons have influenced autistic kids to doing terrible things before. Yes, very specifically autistic kids because “they see things differently.” How is this possible? If they can still influence, what’s the point of the rocks? They seem to be doing a fair amount of destruction without them. Also, why do they act like stereotypical ghosts? They open doors and windows, they turn on the TV, they make dogs go nuts, they haunt dreams (this only pointlessly happens once in the movie), and to top off their spree of horrific acts… they turn on sinks! Those fiends! Now the water bill will spike by a dollar! The horror… the horror. How is any of this scary? But more importantly, what is the point of scaring? These demons aren’t tricksters. They’re monsters looking to take over the world, or whatever. How does blasting the TV at full volume further their goals? And the hell is up with their black hand spots? They sure do love those, but again, why? Is it a mark for death? Then why so many fucking handprints? I think one, or even a few would get the picture. But then why target the sister so frequently if it’s Michael they want? No, seriously, now that I think about it, that sister gets targeted for everything! The demons stalk her while she’s showering (um… creepers), dirty her blanket with their infamous black handprints, sic a dog on her, choke her the fuck out (not killing her for some reason), Jesus Christ, no one in the writing room thought any of this through.
I honestly think I’m wearing myself out with how much bad is in this movie. Yeah, it’s pretty damn awful. But like I said, this movie is trying so hard, it’s like watching a kid perform a monologue that he doesn’t want to do. It’s just so hilarious and cute to see how much he’s not trying. I don’t care if you’re a horror fan, this isn’t worth your time. I’m not even really going to recommend it if you’re looking to make fun of it. I know if I tried to watch this movie again, it would annoy me more than entertain me. That was lightning in a bottle, folks. I recommend staying away from this one.
My honest rating for THE DARKNESS: 1/5