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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.17%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 4.17%
Pretty Bad: 33.33%
Total Crap58.33%

4 reviews, 24 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"You won't require a candle to curse this one"
1 stars

A mysterious and isolated abode containing dark and hideous secrets within the walls (and under the floorboards)? Check. A little kid who seems to be the only one able to see the mysterious ghosts of strange children haunting the halls? Check. A seemingly normal father who goes psycho quicker than you can say “Jack Nicholson”? Check. A scene in which a mother is locked in a bathroom with her child while he husband tries to bash down the door? Check. And yet, while “Darkness” may seem from a description of the elements above to be nothing more than a blatant rip-off of “The Shining” (not to mention any other number of titles, such as “The Sixth Sense”, “Stir of Echoes” and “The Others”), it was another, somewhat less beloved 1980 horror film that kept running through my mind while watching it-the misbegotten Disney live-action “The Watcher in the Woods”. Not only do both have similar plots-nonsense involving long-missing children, beings from other dimensions and weird and mysterious rituals-but they also have a similar background; each one was long-delayed from its original release (“Darkness” carries a 2002 copyright notice on the prints in release) and each bears evidence of extensive post-production tampering that does nothing but render the proceedings into one of the more thoroughly incomprehensible films of late.

A surly-looking Anna Paquin stars as Regina, a young woman whose family has just left America to live in an isolated house in Spain that is so spooky and remote enough that even the Amityville realtor would have had trouble pushing that particular listing. No sooner than they have moved in than strange things begin to happen-Dad (Iain Glen) begins having a recurrence of the seizures that used to affect him and seems to be slowly going around the bend, younger son Paul (Stephen Enquist) continually develops strange bruises on his neck and complains that the dark is eating his colored pencils and the power in the house keeps shorting out for no explainable reason. As Dad grows nuttier, Paul’s bruises grow bigger and hidden rooms start appearing in the house, Regina starts investigating and uncovers a couple of interesting facts. Her house, for example, doesn’t seem to have any record of even existing. Oh yeah, there was also a series of children abducted from that very area exactly forty years earlier-six died while one managed to escape-and it appears that the house might have where they were taken. Oh, and those earlier events also occurred in the shadow of a unique eclipse and the first such one since then is just around the corner.

At least I think that is what was going on-one of the strangest things about “Darkness” is how absolutely impenetrable it truly is. Much of this is the result of a truly botched series of obvious post-production edits performed by Miramax in order to make the film, which was apparently fairly successful when it played in its native Spain a couple of years ago, play more like their other Spanish-born horror hit “The Others”. Although I haven’t seen the original version, it is pretty obvious that the film has been tampered with-characters appear and disappear without rhyme or reason, scenes shift from night to day and back again at a moment’s notice (acceptable during the eclipse scenes, I suppose, but less so during the others), title cards announcing the time frame have been artlessly added in to confuse things even further and the whole thing comes crashing to halt with a finale seemingly designed to annoy anyone dumb enough to have stuck with it until the bitter end. Other changes seem to have been made in a desperate attempt to snag a PG-13 rating-bits of gore have clearly been excised and, in the single most hilarious moment, Psycho Dad tries to get at Mom (Lena Olin) and Paul, who have locked themselves away, by yelling at them to open the “FREAKING!” door in a dub done with an elegance not seen since the network broadcast version of “Mallrats”.

However, there are enough other problems on display to suggest that the initial version from director Jaume Balaguero was pretty bad all by itself. The shocking revelations about the house and the identity of the child that escaped years earlier will come as a surprise to no one. When one of the bad guys reveals himself, his explanation speech makes so little sense that it grinds the entire film to a halt-we never learn what he hopes to accomplish by his actions or why he thinks that everything will work as planned this time around when it got all cocked up four decades earlier.(For that matter, we are never clear exactly how much or how little the Olin character is supposed to know about what is going on.) Even the geography of the locations is ill-defined; much is made of how remote the family is and how they know practically no one, yet they throw a well-attended housewarming party early on, the local hospital never seems to have anyone around except for the principal actors and one character’s apartment, based on the available evidence, appears to be large enough that it could only be affordable to someone named Oprah. “Darkness” also incorporates one of my favorite clichés-the sight of characters reacting to strange and terrifying phenomenon with the most maddeningly inappropriate veneer of calm disinterest. Even when it may appear that aliens and the existence of Hell itself may be involved, no one even raises an eyebrow in shock, surprise or even mild curiosity.

“Darkness” is crap from start-to-finish, the kind of ill-advised mess that usually winds up going straight to video, allowing film fans ample opportunity to overlook it. Instead, it has been dribbled out over the holidays in the hopes of scoring a few bucks from genre buffs otherwise starved for horror product (a tactic that they milked effectively with the far-more-entertaining “Scream”), though I can’t imagine that any of them will be particularly thrilled with having forked over hard-earned money to experience the results (including critics, since Miramax didn’t dare screen this for critics ahead of time). After seeing this disaster, I assure you that you won’t require a candle to curse this “Darkness”, though by the end, many may want to apply that same candle to the negative

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originally posted: 12/30/04 10:24:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 ScreamFest L.A. Horror Festival. For more in the 2004 ScreamFest L.A. series, click here.

User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell dull unscary crap 1 stars
1/18/10 art MS.PAQUIN is SUCH A HAM!,it should be called "HAMMINESS' INSTEAD! 1 stars
6/10/09 CTT Unwatchable mess 1 stars
10/09/06 Jim Like a bad Season 7 episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" 2 stars
6/05/06 mary a total waste of time 1 stars
6/04/06 William Goss The atmosphere is there, but no other comprehensible element is. As blegh as horror gets. 1 stars
10/12/05 Tom Burns Not very scary, and not very good. 2 stars
9/11/05 Karen Illogical, meandering, confused, just incredibly bad. 1 stars
8/18/05 ES wasted film- another kid sees bad things and no one believes him piece o crap 1 stars
8/15/05 .:*paris*:. the worst ending i hav eva seen!,boring and no decent story 1 stars
6/20/05 greensweater I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me 1 stars
5/31/05 Ras From bad to worse to waste...use the two hours of your life for ANYTHING else 1 stars
5/19/05 ad not much to this one 2 stars
5/07/05 Amy Riggsby Scary movie to me, but a horrible ending. 3 stars
5/07/05 edsandiego2 It's not really that scarry. It would be nice to hear more about the missing children. 3 stars
2/21/05 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne What COULD EricD's 2nd star be for? If ever Anna Paquin needed to feast on beans.....! 1 stars
2/21/05 Natalie Stonecipher Not worst movie ever made but quite possibly stupidest. Sad waste of Anna Paquin. 1 stars
2/05/05 LilyM I liked the last scene. That's it....the last scene. 2 stars
1/17/05 Roy Smith Again An oppurtunity to wipe your ass with a handful of bills without the risk of a paper cut. 1 stars
1/14/05 Al Guy Maybe the uncut version won't stink. 1 stars
1/13/05 Theresa Bildstein HORRIBLE!! 1 stars
1/10/05 Me A great film 5 stars
1/07/05 PAKURDU NORMAL 5 stars
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  25-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2011



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