The Dark Review

The barren, windswept cliffs of Wales are an unlikely place for a family holiday but American divorcee Adèle (Maria Bello) and her daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) have travelled there to visit Sarah's father James (Sean Bean), an artist who lives in an old cliff-top farmhouse. Adèle hopes the trip will bring Sarah and herself closer together after some troubled times.

Instead tragedy strikes. Exploring the beach below the house, Sarah disappears and when her shoe washes up, she's presumed drowned. James and Adèle are devastated by the loss but their ordeal is far from over. As they wait for the body to be found, Adèle sees a young girl outside the farmhouse. It isn't Sarah - this girl's name is Ebrill (Abigail Stone) and she died fifty years ago.

The Dark, a British ghost story directed by John Fawcett (Ginger Snaps) and produced by Paul WS Anderson (Event Horizon) begins effectively. Maria Bello and Sean Bean make sympathetic leads and the script by Stephen Massicotte (based on a novel by Simon Maginn) pushes the right emotional buttons to draw you into the story. We can all imagine what it must be like to lose a child.

The Dark's intriguing elements, which include a cult based on Welsh superstition, have to struggle with its conventional side and sadly it's a losing battle. Fawcett's direction resorts all too often to cheap scares underscored with loud booms on the soundtrack. They're not even good scares. More than once we're supposed to be frightened by the sight of sheep.

The plot becomes increasingly dependent on twists, few of which are surprising or original. The conclusion feels very arbitrary, as if the writers spun a wheel to decide with which revelation the film should end.

There are a lot of echoes of earlier horror films also, especially in the later stages. Pet Sematary and the Poltergeist series come to mind but the most blatant influence is The Ring. The ghost child Ebrill could be a Welsh cousin of Sadako, the sinister little girl from the Japanese original and Samara from the American remake. They surely go to the same hairdresser.

Overall

5

out of 10

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