Please note that this is the Dimension cut of the film which excised approximately 15 minutes of footage.
Forty years after the events of an obscure credit sequence (all skittish editing and abrasive sound design), Anna Paquin moves to Spain, more specifically an isolated house in Spain, with her parents (Iain Glen and Lena Olin) and younger brother (Stephan Enquist). Darkness being a horror pic, this doesn’t result in a new start and happiness but a series of over familiar motifs borrowed from superior genre entries. Indeed, rather than a cohesive narrative to call its own, Darkness offers a kind of ‘best of’ collection, albeit of the sort that would accompany a Sunday tabloid as opposed to the carefully considered efforts of a renowned curator.
It’s a situation which may strike some as disappointing considering Jaume Balagueró’s presence as both co-writer and director. Those expectant of something matching the quality of his cult shorts and first feature, The Nameless, will no doubt be surprised to find few traces of those efforts here, as will those hoping he would emulate Guillermo del Toro’s or compatriot Alejandro Amenábar’s respective successes in English-language, (partly) US-financed horror. In place of these expectations we instead find a derivative mess that frankly could have been made by anyone with any directorial flourishes coming courtesy of those responsible for the ripped off works. At one time or other Darkness reminds us of The Shining, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, Paperhouse to name just a few and thus the likes of Kubrick, Tobe Hooper, et al.
The major problem with this is that in ticking off the various sources, the viewer inevitably fails to get caught up in the narrative. We’re too busy trying to recall just how often we’ve seen ominous solar eclipses or kids drawing spooky pictures that we simply don’t consider the relevance of this solar eclipse or why this particular kid is drawing these particular spooky pictures. And even if we can’t remember exactly where we’ve seen these numerous tropes before, the sense of familiarity soon becomes overwhelming and leads to tedium. Of course, once the revelations and plot twists do kick in during the final act, it is simply too late for them to have much of an effect. It’s particularly disappointing as Balagueró’s ending is a nice idea – yet that’s all it remains, just a nice idea.
Furthering the frustration is the presence of a fine international cast. (No doubt Udo Kier was too busy to take on the role that has taken up by Giancarlo Giannini.) Collectively they provide Darkness with at least a hint of style, yet none of them are allowed a chance to shine individually courtesy of the material’s flimsiness. Indeed, in some ways they can be seen as the only element which differentiates this film from the equally derivative efforts which occupy the lower end of the horror market.
Unsurprisingly, Buena Vista are releasing Darkness on Region 2 in fine condition. The original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is maintained and transferred anamorphically, whilst the colours are true and blacks solid. Indeed, this latter aspect is essential for a film entitled Darkness and thankfully doesn’t disappoint. Equally impressive is the DD5.1 mix which ably captures the abrasive sound design and bass rumbles with no discernible faults. As with the picture quality, the soundtrack remains crisp and clean throughout making for a fine viewing experience. However, if the presentation is vastly superior to the film itself, the extras are in a similar league. Disappointing only a brief featurette and two trailers appear on the disc, the latter two being self-explanatory and the former being too short to offer anything remotely interesting. Instead we get the standard EPK nonsense in which the likes of Olin and Glen proclaim just how scary it is.
Unlike the main feature, none of the extras come with optional subtitles.