I Will Follow You into the Dark shares its name with an acoustic ditty by Death Cab for Cutie, a bittersweet proclamation of everlasting love, unencumbered even by death itself. Writer-director Mark Edward Robinson literalizes Ben Gibbard’s opening line, “Love of mine, someday you will die/But I’ll be close behind and follow You into the dark,” a maudlin yet admittedly chilling decree that would sound plausible coming from a lovesick lothario or an obsessive stalker. The film, as it turns out, is about neither, but it doesn’t shy away from the hyperbole of Gibbard’s sappy tune.
In the film, artist Sophia (Mischa Barton) is suffering from the loss of her father, who passes away a mere six months after her mother. She falls deep into depression, and it isn’t until she meets the hunky Adam (Ryan Eggold) that her mood begins to brighten. Coinciding with their courtship is a series of strange events: missing belongings, whispers in the night, strange dreams. One night, Sophia wakes up and finds Adam missing, a trail of blood leading from their bed and up to his apartment building’s empty top floor, where numerous deaths reportedly occurred. Teaming up with Adam’s roommate, Astrid (Leah Pipes), and a couple of friends, Sophia sets out to find her missing beau and winds up crossing the barrier between life and death.
Before the action even properly begins, Robinson is drawing hard lines. At her father’s wake, Sophia delivers a fiery, anti-religious eulogy, decrying any notion of an afterlife and openly chiding those who might believe otherwise. She even challenges the Almighty on the grounds that, if there is an afterlife, to “fucking prove it.” And prove it He does, thanks to Robinson’s desire to teach his wayward heroine a lesson. A moralistic ending is telegraphed from the beginning and routinely fulfilled by the end, rendering the rest of this trite, visually unappealing mess virtually worthless.
I Will Follow You into the Dark doesn’t sustain its myriad moods, reaching for romance and supernatural horror in equal measure without properly applying either genre’s characteristics. The atmosphere gracelessly switches gears from scene to scene, and Robinson, drawing from the pat scenarios of his shoddy screenplay (the characters are prone to such contradictory and unintentionally comic phrases as “we found him gone” and “classic originals,” among others), forces the action to comply with his desired tone. Consequently, scenes meant to be romantic are instead saccharine and overtly affected, while scenes meant to be scary are banal and tedious. The lack of subtlety in all aspects, from the acting to the camerawork to the editing, is glaring, the result of too many ideas shoved into an unremarkable story.