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RELEASED: 2002, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 102 mins
DIRECTOR: Jaume Balaguero
PRODUCERS: Julio Fernandez & Brian Yuzna
SCREENPLAY: Jaume Balaguero & Fernando de Felipe
MUSIC: Carles Cases
Anna Paquin as Regina
Stephan Enquist as Paul
Iain Glen as Mark
Lena Olin as Maria
Fermin Reixach as Villaobos
Giancarlo Giannini as Albert
Fele Martinez as Carlos
FILM ONLY REVIEW
When Mark and Maria move from the USA to Spain with their children Regina and Paul, strange things start to happen.
Mark has an illness whereby whenever he gets overly stressed, he has some sort of fit. This isn't helped by as soon as the family moves into the old house in Spain, strange things start to happen. Just prior to Mark's attacks, he experieces flashbacks to something from his past, involving a swimming pool!
Paul begins drawing strange things with his coloured pencils, sees menacing figures of children in the dark at nights whilst in his bedroom, and a toy carousel on top of a cupboard seems to work of its own accord.
Big sister Regina knows that something odd is going on, and takes it upon herself to look after Paul as their mother, Maria, is sceptical about what appears to be happening.
With the help of a young man (Carlos) who she has just made friends with, Regina seeks to uncover what is going on, her findings suggesting that it is the house which is causing the strange happenings.
Darkness starts off quite well, with Mark and his son Paul getting stuck in traffic whilst on their way home. Mark plays a sort of a game with Paul whereby he keeps hooting his horn and shouting, which begins as a joke, but escalates into a situation of high stress during which he (Mark) has one of his attacks. That part of the film is quite well put across, and it grabbed my interest, making me curious as to what would happen next.
However, my anticipation was short-lived, as the film then becomes rather confusing, consisting of a mish-mash of scenes from what appears to be a highly dysfunctional family, overseen by Maria - a mother who doesn't seem to display much warmth towards her husband and children.
As the storyline progresses, it is obvious that there is a strong supernatural element, but the creepy happenings are filmed using dodgy special effects, some of which appear to be the camera crew simply shaking the camera back and forth. Little flashes of swings oscillating in the garden of the house during what seems to be an epic and persistent (bearing in mind the story takes place over a period of several days) thunderstorm in progress, are punctuated with spooky bits and pieces such as Paul's coloured pencils rolling under the bed for no apparent reason, an old 78rpm record playing on a gramophone (the significance of which I never did manage to work out) and dad Mark's behaviour becoming disassociated, unpredictable and aggressive.
The acting in Darkness is some way down from even being merely average, with nobody standing out above anyone else. Also, some of the speech between the cast members is indistinct, but after a while I realised perhaps that wasn't too much of a handicap when trying to follow the film, as very little of worth was actually being said. I found the character of Maria quite unpleasant, as she came across as cold, yet I don't think that was the intention. Regina simply irritated me, and Mark's rapid decline into delusory behaviour was so badly hammed up, that it just made me cringe.
As far as the music is concerned, I noticed very little of it, apart from the occasional burst of choral voices during the spooky parts of the film....well, the parts which were at least intended to be spooky.
It appears to me that Darkness was made using a very low budget, and there is far too much reliance on special effects which are poorly presented, to the point where they seriously fudge the smooth running of the storyline. Had those who were responsible for making this film stuck to a less adventurous format and told the story in a down-to-earth, matter of fact way, they may have managed to create something reasonably good, as the story does have a lot of potential.
I feel a lot more could be made of Darkness, because as it stands, it comes across as pretty throwaway. The atmosphere of the film is depressing rather than creepy, with little or no character development or lead-up to explain why the family decided to move from the USA to Spain. Also, there is an element of highly unlikely coincidence present, in that why did they choose the one house in the whole of Spain where the events that take place would happen? Search me!
However, despite all of this film's faults - and there are lots - it is actually quite entertaining, and even though I became very confused as to what was happening, why, and how various other characters entered into the picture, my attention was held to the end...and, to turn the tables around, I was quite impressed with the very last scene just before the closing credits rolled. That part was well thought out, and I suppose could be considered as a sort of a twist. The beginning and the ending are good....it's just the bit in between which needs sorting out.
In summary, I very much doubt if I will watch Darkness again, and it overall is a pretty rubbish offering, but it is strangely entertaining in parts, being not unlike an old Hammer Horror, although I feel that Hammer would have made a better job of it. The film's 'watchability' value, despite it being largely rubbish, is strong enough for me to award a possibly over-generous three stars.
At the time of writing, Darkness can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.42 to £18.57
Used: from 1p to £8.88
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
It is fair testament to "Darkness" that despite initially being made in 2002, its DVD release was only realised in 2005. The three year wait was hardly a period of reflection and marketing fervour either. I suspect that the three years were spent wondering whether it was really worth bothering to release the film at all.
Teenager Regina moves to a countryside house with her parents and younger brother. Almost as soon as they move into the property, Regina starts to feel that things are not what they should be. Her father, already fragile from the previous onset of medical problems, looks like he's having one of his turns again and it is pretty evident that he knows more about the house than he is letting on - either consciously or otherwise. Regina's younger brother kepes having bad dreams and at night, whilst the two of them are talking or preparing food in the kitchen, nightmarish, spectral figures slip into the shadows around them. When her father discovers a hidden room beneath the stairs and then starts excavating the lounge floor, Regina enlists the help of her boyfriend to investigate the house's troubled past - and she doesn't like what she finds ..
There seems to be a glut of haunted house films out on DVD at the moment, and I don't think I've seen one yet that is actually any cop. If you've got half a mind to make a movie and a miserable budget to boot, then a "spooky" house movie is always a good bet. You can save money on lighting - everything is filmed in the dark. You can save money on actors - keep the cast small and incestuous so that everyone wonders who's doing what. You can save money on location filming - keep everything in the confines of the house. You can even save money on special effects by simply hinting and suggesting at things from start to virtual finish until you end up with one overblown climax that lasts around three minutes. Jaume Balaguero certainly agrees, because with Darkness that's exactly what he's served up.
I'm sorry but "things in the dark" movies just don't wash with me. They seem to think that they can play on a latent fear of the dark exhibited in just about every child and adult on the planet. In fact, what they do is demonstrate how silly such a fear is. Who knows what lurks in the dark recesses of your bedroom, but the chances are that it will be somebody's overcoat with a freaky silhouette, next door's cat on the prowl or a fiendish looking child's toy that grows enormously in size when the moon casts its glare on the wall. It's all very dull and it's all so passe - we've seen it so many times. Darkness has some moments of fairly effective eeriness, because Balaguero is at least able to create a sense of trepidation. He flashes images of strange dark figures in the background and focuses on the fearful expressions of his cast to try and embed a sense of fear but it seldom works for long.
Darkness is rather like a mish mash of so many films that if it was turned into a comedy, it would probably be more like Scary Movie 5. The gradual disintegration of Regina's father into a fearful lunatic is akin at times to The Shining but the household setting also starts to lean towards The Amityville Horror. The growing satanic elements to the storyline could have come from a hundreds of films but inspiration seems to come most strongly from Rosemary's Baby and Bless The Child. And then there is a strange European air to the film that makes it feel more like an arthouse movie than a Hollywood blockbuster. Such a strange combination was always unlikely to work particularly well.
The story suffers from those things that all such films suffer from. The characters are inherently rather stupid and by the time the film finishes you'll be quite relieved that it's all over. People wander around in the dark, completely unnecessarily. Everyone goes a bit mad for reasons quite unknown. When something seems to be living under the child's bed he takes it upon himself to play with it rather than poop his pants and get the hell out of there. All those sorts of things. The twist is, sadly, rather predictable and once it's come, everyone's behaviour disintegrates into even more stupidity. If I warned you that by doing something, something particularly awful would happen, would you do it? No, I thought not. Trouble is, Regina clearly would, so by the time the last act has played you really couldn't care less what happens to her or her family. I never really got my head around the character's motivations either. Consciously or otherwise, if I moved to a property that caused me nightmarish visions of terrible past events, I wonder whether I would consider moving out pretty damn quickly. Regina's father, on the other hand seems content to start digging the place up. Hmmm.
I actually quite like the Canadian actress Anna Paquin. She was in The Piano and plays Rogue in XMen 1 2 and 3. In Darkness, however, she seems completely wasted. She does her best, but with such a limited script and character this can only go so far. Her younger brother (Stephan Enquist in his first screen role) is just a typical frightened young boy. Mommy and daddy are suitably uninteresting. The only notable character is the grandfather, Albert Rua (Giancarlo Giannini from Hannibal) who adds a certain element of Gothic intrigue that is never wasted on the audience.
Even so, it's all rather pointless and certainly doesn't deserve the surprisingly warm reception. It is seldom scary - rarely deserving its 15 certification. It isn't very exciting - 102 minutes is far too long to be honest. It isn't particularly original either - you can spot influences (or should that be thefts?) from so many other films, you'll probably lose count. This film passes the time, at best.
Released in 2005, you can pick up the region 2 DVD for around £5 quite easily.
An American family moves to the countryside of Spain to live in an isolated house. Regina (Anna Paquin), the teenager daughter of Mark (Iain Glen), who is sick and has some mental problems, and the nurse Maria (Lena Olin), notes that weird things is happening in the house and with her young brother Paul (Stephan Enquist), but her mother does not believe on her. Reggie decides to investigate with her boyfriend Carlos (Fele Martínez) the origins of the house, and they find that forty years ago, the place was the stage of the death of six children. Reggie decides to ask for support to her grandfather Albert (Giancarlo Giannini) to protect her brother against the house and her father.