Forty years ago during a lunar eclipse, seven children disappear from the Spanish countryside under very mysterious circumstances. Only one turns up alive, telling strange stories no officer of the law could be bothered to investigate, which more or less permits the existence of Juame Balagueró’s ridiculous Darkness (or Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the House of Ouroboros). Forty years later, a family moves into a house in the same Spanish countryside, and suggestive of a Folgers Crystals commercial, their happy lives are interrupted when the lights begin to go out. Mark (Iain Glen) appears to be the sole survivor of the kiddie attacks detailed in the film’s opening sequence, and his ongoing trauma predisposes him to seizure-like episodes that resurface shortly before the looming eclipse. While his son Paul (Stephan Enquist) is forcing an existential connect with a box of colored pencils and the ghosts under his bed, his wife Maria (Lena Olin) is ignoring the strange markings that begin to appear on her little boy’s neck. Frustrated by her mother’s passivity, daughter Regina (Anna Paquin) decides to play the family psychologist, but when a creepy old man begins to hang around the house, she and her Spanish boyfriend, Carlos (Fele Martínez), discover that supernatural events may explain her brother’s child abuse and her house’s bad electricity. If there isn’t a scary moment in Darkness, which makes the upcoming Haute Tension look like an exercise in restraint, that’s because there isn’t a trope in the film that doesn’t feel as if it’s been stolen from someplace else. The film is neither as controlled as Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others or as spiritually-minded as Guillermo del Toro’s fever dream The Devil’s Backbone. As for the silly occult business that closes the film, it has none of the psycho-sexual urgency of Polanski’s paranoiac masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby or the delicious camp factor of his Ninth Gate, two films Balagueró is especially indebted to. Someone could argue that Regina’s struggle to fight the darkness becomes a defense of family, but there’s no real emotion to the story to give this interpretation much weight. Balagueró scare tactic of choice is having dark shadows run across frame, all set to really loud music cues, which means Darkness is yet another sign that horror films are going the way of Darkness Falls.
- Dimension Films
- 102 min
- Juame Balagueró
- Juame Balagueró, Fernando de Felipe
- Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen, Giancarlo Giannini, Fele Martínez, Stephen Enquist, Fermín Reixach, Craig Stevenson
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: