Darkness is just one of those movies that I happen to find incomprehensible. Maybe I am stupid? Maybe I am lame? In fact, maybe I just don’t “get it”, but I found this movie to have a lot of possibilities and at the end of the day it didn’t really seem to utilize any of them. In fact, I have seen this movie two times now and I still don’t know what happens at the end. Now, sometimes when I screen films I don’t mind this, because I usually have an idea of what went on, but in Darkness, I am just completely clueless. I watched this movie and I kept waiting ... waiting for the movie to explain itself just a little bit more, waiting for the “monsters” to be better exploited, waiting for one of the characters to elucidate for me what was going on but it never happened.
The movie begins with an American family moving to a secluded estate in Spain. Weird things happen pretty much from the beginning, and whenever the lights go out things seem to get a bit weirder. We see images, ghosts, spooky kids and it’s apparent that something is not right with this place that this transplanted family now calls home. Add to this that the parents of the family begin to act strangely and you have a recipe for fear it would seem. This movie is anchored by Regina(Anna Paquin), and she does a very capable job of trying to keep order as her home life spins out of control. Sadly, there isn’t enough of a coherence with the story, to really be able to make much sense of this piece.
Director Jaume Balaguero does a very credible job, and the look of the film is impressive, if not overly neo-gothic. He seems to be someone who takes great pains to make his movies, and I get the feeling that he is going to hit with a bigger film at some point. Darkness just feels too much like it was shot with a vision and then when they edited the movie, in trying to make it scarier, they just confused things. Sometimes confusion like this can play to the film’s advantage. In this instance, it just didn’t work in my opinion.
Darkness Illuminated: Behind the Scenes of Darkness
This is just a cursory behind the scenes look at what went into making the film. The actors speak in their usual glowing tones about the Director, and I was actually more intrigued with him then I was with anything or anyone else. In this day and age of CGI and “painting with computers”, director Jaume Balaguero seems to eschew all that for “in camera editing”. He uses techniques that seem to deal with actually effecting the emulsion of the film while shooting, and does this to gain dramatic FX and scares. It works very well for this piece. It isn’t that I don’t think that this movie is scary, it just didn’t seem to hold together over the course of the film.
Widescreen (2.40:1) - Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions. This is a movie that is just made for DVD. It is the kind of the film that you know is going to do well. The packaging and the fact that they have released this version as “unrated”(which makes me think that there has to be a “rated” DVD release somewhere), all the more suggests that this DVD will pay back Dimension handsomely. The look of this film is very stylized. In fact, I find that Spanish directors in general seem to lean in that direction. In my opinion, this is the one thing that sets this film apart from so many of the others that have come out. It is one of the first horror movies I have seen that the stylization, is not what negatively effects this movie. I love the use of black, and how the creepy, crawling characters appear only when illuminated ala Pitch Black. All of this seemed to play on my thoughts as a viewer. The big problem that I have with this movie is that I kept waiting for things to happen. The DVD transfer was beyond crisp and the images almost looked like paintings. It seems like a very delicately handled DVD and this shows in how it was transferred and compressed. A movie like this would play quite well on anyone’s home theater system.
Doldy Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The sound design on this film is top notch. I feel weird giving this movie a bad review when so much of it is deserving of praise. By all accounts, I should have really loved this movie. I should have “gotten it”. The way that sound is used with the images, creates a vivid portrait of a family in a very dire situation. Sound in a horror movie is key to pulling off the required thrills and chills and there is nothing about this movie that doesn’t speak to that. I was able to set the levels on my TV and despite the influx of sound(in the key scary scenes), I never had to adjust or mess with the audio levels once. As I stated above, a movie like this, despite it’s flaws could do very well for people with home theater systems mainly because the way it has been created will make good use of all the the components that come with owning such a system. While some may consider this movie to be a glorified “straight to video” piece(even though it was released in theaters), it is always refreshing to see a “horror movie” get the treatment it deserves to maximize the experience of screening it.
This movie features Anna Paquin on the cover with ghouls and a creepy house underneath her. In fact, it says ”The Year’s Most Terrifying Thriller” across the top of the DVD box. Well, I don’t actually know what “the year’s most terrifying thriller” was, but I highly doubt that it was this movie. It was scary in parts but “terrifying” would not be the word that I would use. The back features more pictures from the movie, a good description of it’s content, extras and the technical specs of the this DVD. The look mixes a crimson red with a harsh black. Other then that “terrifying” line, which is highly misleading, there is nothing about this packaging that doesn’t keep right in line with the movie that Darkness is. In this day and age when packaging is everything, it’s nice to see a DVD released that plays it close to the vest.
Darkness isn’t a bad movie. It isn’t without the many moments you come to expect from horror movies. I just found that at the end, I had too many questions to really get behind the ideas that this movie seems to be putting across. I think if this movie didn’t have any other subplots, other then what was happening to the family at their home, then things ultimately wouldn’t have been so jumbled. Whenever we see a horror movie nowadays, it seems that no matter what there is going to be an ending in which we get the answers to the questions that we have had all along. I like that Darkness didn’t try to do this, but at the same time this was one of those movies that really needed to do that. It wasn’t some paint by numbers horror film that basically gives you three choices for why things are they way are, but the first two don’t count. Darkness is not an obvious film in anyway shape or form, but in some ways it may have helped the movie if it had been.
Darkness was released October 11, 2002.