Mike Sutton looks at the Optimum Blu Ray release of And Soon The Darkness, yet another pointless remake.
Robert Fuest’s thriller from 1970, And Soon The Darkness is one of those small but beautifully formed suspense movies which are rarely seen but tend to impress themselves on the mind of anyone who catches them. Made by many of the production team who had just finished with The Avengers, it’s rather like a dry run for co-writer Brian Clemens’ long-running ITV series Thriller. The carefully structured plot is about the horrors which beset two nurses cycling through France. One of the girls mysteriously disappears and the other tries desperately to find her, helped and hindered by achingly cool traveller Sandor Eles and plodding French copper John Nettleton. It’s an understated and gripping piece of work which twists it’s way to a reasonably unpredictable climax.
It’s surprising that it’s taken forty years for anyone to get round to remaking And Soon The Darkness but now we have a new take on the material which relocates the basic plot to Argentina before getting rid of many of the things which made the original interesting. Amber Heard, who is apparently a “rising genre star”, and acts as co-producer on this effort, plays the girl whose friend, portrayed by Odette Yustman, disappears and Karl Urban takes the role of the traveller, although he’s been given a rather tedious backstory and never manages to be particularly menacing. It takes a while for the film to get going, not least because it takes in scenes which will inevitably remind seasoned viewers of Hostel and Paradise Lost, and once it gets going, it’s nearly over.
One of the strengths of the 1970 film is the sinister cinematography by Ian Wilson which almost matches the best films of John Coquillon in making the landscape seem both beautiful and creepy. Gabriel Beristain’s work here is on a par with Wilson’s, particularly during the final half hour when Amber Heard is required to ramble around an unsettling ghost town. Throughout, in fact, the film looks marvellous and this sheen makes the effort seem rather better than it otherwise might.
The basic problem is that director and co-writer Marcos Efron hasn’t really decided what sort of film he wants to make. At times, he seems content to follow the carefully built tension of the original with a slow accretion of sinister hints and forebodings. At others, particularly in the largely redundant opening sequence which is clearly intended as a sop to the Hostel fanboy crowd, he obviously wants to make something shocking and brutal. Finally, he settles for a generic slasher feel and a continual cycle of trap and escape during the second half. He’s efficient at doing this, to be fair, but it’s old hat and rather boring to watch. It might help if he got more assistance from his two leads. Unfortunately, Odette Yustman and Amber Heard are landed with a clichéd bad girl / good girl dichotomy and neither of them can make much of what they’re given. Yustman is slightly better than Heard, although her character seems to recall the old slasher formula of s = t where the more sex a character has, the more trouble they are likely to get into. Amber Heard’s appeal is a mystery to me. I’ve seen her in The Ward, The Stepfather and All The Boys Love Mandy Lane and I find her neither desirable nor interesting; a problem which ruined the latter film for me since I couldn’t buy into the basic premise let alone believe anything that happened subsequently. She clearly has a good business head on her shoulders and wants to get involved in her career but she needs to find more challenging roles than the ones she’s been taking if she’s going to be worthy of serious notice.
Anchor Bay’s Blu Ray release of this movie is visually and aurally impressive, making the most of what virtues it has to offer.
The 1080p image is framed at 2.40:1 and looks gorgeous throughout, whether making the most of the richly evocative Argentinian landscapes or getting down and dirty with some deliberately dark and dingy interiors. The later scenes in the abandoned community are slightly drained of colour and look suitably atmospheric. The English DTS-HD 5.1 track is nicely balanced between music and ambient effects and comes into its own towards the end when creaks and rustles become integral to the scenes. The dialogue throughout is admirably clear.
The only extra features are the typically brash trailer and a collection of deleted scenes; all of them redundant, they go to show why material is deleted and why, generally speaking, no-one really needs to see it.
And Soon The Darkness has its merits, notably the excellent cinematography, but is, overall, forgettable and easily ignored. The Blu Ray presents it very nicely however.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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