Friday, February 17, 2017

The Darkness (2016)

Can’t recommend this one. I wanted to like it, especially since it began with a family vacation at the Grand Canyon, and I’d love to see more horror films utilizing southwest mythology, the canyon, and Anasazi ruins. The early scenes could have been as eerie as Picnic at Hanging Rock. But the setting only functioned as a starting point and the rest of the action took place inside the home of a white suburban family. From this point on, it’s pretty much by rote.

Dad (Kevin Bacon, with the same hair he had in Footloose) works too much. Mom (Radha Mitchell) struggles with a drinking problem. Their teenage daughter’s bulimic and snarky. Their son is autistic and is used rather badly in the story as a magnet for the supernatural. We’re told as much by the Internet, where we get all the exposition about the Anasazi, demons, some rocks stolen by the son while on vacation…way too much time spent staring at computer screens.

To save their son the parents consult a medium, and introduce another familiar trope, the person of color who acts as a spiritual guide, aided by her translator granddaughter (yeah). The medium, Teresa, tries to cleanse the house of evil but instead finds evil squatting in a big hole behind the son’s bedroom wall. Very disconcerting to watch the medium divining this space by holding a couple of bent copper wires out in front of her breasts. But maybe that's just me. I'm a woman and you know what we're like.

Some stuff happens and people scream. Kevin Bacon saves his family by yanking his son out of the hole behind the wall, and declares that they’re all safe now. Which I guess also implies he will work shorter hours and Mom will get drunk less often.

Not the worst patchwork home-possession movie ever, just not inspired or very original. The same tropes could work if given a slight edge or a new spin. The movie's downfall is how predictably all of its elements play out.

And The Darkness may have been released in 2016 but it was clearly shot much earlier, judging by the age of its youngest actor. On that subject, it's obvious why The Darkness is streaming on Netflix right now. The son is played by David Mazouz, a.k.a. Gotham’s Little Batman, Bruce Wayne. And, as usual, Mazouz does a good job. Just not enough to elevate The Darkness above a C-.