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Featured Blu-ray Review: Darkness

July 10th, 2012

Darkness - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Darkness was a Spanish film first released in its native market in 2002, but its North American release was delayed for a couple years. When it finally did come out, it was released on Christmas day in 2004, but it wasn't your typical family film, big blockbuster, or Awards Season contender. It was a smaller horror film looking to pick up the counter-programming. It wasn't a big hit, but it more than doubled its relatively small production budget during its theatrical run and in the end made a profit, although not a huge one. Is it a good film that was overlooked because of the competition? Or a weak film that benefited by being the only horror film released during the holidays?

Before we get to the review of Darkness, just a quick note. The Blu-ray came out on the 10th, not the 17th. has the wrong date, which is why I didn't get to this review on time. I had it filed on the wrong date.

The Movie

The film begins with a couple voices, a child and a man. The man is asking the child about several missing children. It seems the child was also the victim of this crime, but was the one who got away. The child that got away wasn't able to help the police locate the other kids and from the images we're shown, it's clear they came to a violent end.

Flash forward 40 years, in Spain, and a new family is moving into an old house. There's the mom, Maria; dad, Mark; daughter, Regina; and the son, Paul. The house is a fixer-upper, while the family is having trouble getting into a normal rhythm. They've been there three weeks and they've barely begun to unpack. Regina in particular is not happy to be there, as she wanted to remain in the United States and finish school with her friends. However, Mark's father, Albert Rua, lives in the area, so there is some familial connection to their new home.

One day while driving his son to to school, Mark has a seizure. This is the not the first time this has happened and Regina is worried he is having a relapse and living in the country increases the dangers involved. Maria, on the other hand, is less concerned and very cold to Regina, so cold that one suspects something more is happening here, and Regina decides to go to her boyfriend, Carlos to talk. More strange things happen in the house, like the power fluctuating for no reason. Paul begins to suspect there's some presence under his bed and he also develops a fear of the dark, while he starts drawing pictures relating to six murdered kids. Meanwhile, Mark's seizures become worse and his mental health deteriorates.

Regina recognizes that something is wrong here, but she's the only one in the family to really see it, until it's too late.

The best word to describe Darkness is generic. It's a haunted house movie with very little to set it apart in a crowded genre. Additionally, most of the elements never rise above mediocre. Anna Paquin is compelling as the lead, but she can't do much with her underwritten character. As underwritten as her character is, it is miles ahead of the rest of the cast. Bad dialogue and wooden acting also hurts the film. The film manages to be atmospheric some of the time, but almost never gets to truly scary. The film relies on jump scares, repetitive jump scares. The plot is more confusing than suspenseful. Certain elements are telegraphed too early and too forcefully. We repeatedly hear about the upcoming eclipse, so it is obvious that it has to be important. There's a surprise twist that is hardly surprising. It adds up to a movie that is better than its Tomatometer Score would indicate, but even fans of the genre will have too many other options.

The Extras

The only real extra on the Blu-ray is a short making of featurette. The film does look great on Blu-ray, given its rather low budget. Details are solid, blacks are particularly deep, etc. The movie isn't colorful, so it is hard to judge the transfer in that regard. There's no significant problems with print damage, digital manipulation, or compression issues. The audio is not as good. The viewer is given the choice between a 2.0 DTS track, which is clearer than the 5.1 Dolby track. The 5.1 track is more immersive, but not enough to compensate for the loss in clarity in my opinion. Even the DTS track sometimes has problems with dialogue clarity, which is a larger problem, as there are no English subtitles.

The Verdict

Darkness has very little going for it. Anna Paquin is arguably the best part of the movie, but she's stuck playing a poorly defined character in a generic horror film that is more confusing than scary. The Blu-ray looks better than expected, but it is still not worth the price.

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Filed under: Video Review, Darkness