The Darkness

Posted by Joel Copling on May 12, 2016

"The Darkness" only knows how to deliver the expected and the familiar. This is the kind of dopey, PG-13-rated, supernatural horror/thriller that gives the subgenre a bad name, featuring a screenplay (by Shayne Armstrong, Shane Krause, and director Greg Mclean) that struggles even to give us a reason to care about the human chattel at its center. There is also an element of irresponsibility present, as the character on whose shoulders rests the responsibility for allowing the icky-ooky stuff to happen is a young boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a plot devleopment that itself feels icky-ooky to a different, more alarming degree. Fortunately, it's not so insulting to make the movie worthy of something more than mockery. This is simply a sluggish 92 minutes that feels like 184.

Peter (Kevin Bacon) and Bronny Taylor (Radha Mitchell) are one's typically white, middle-class family whose return from a trip to the Grand Canyon with a couple of friends and their son brings with it the feeling that, of course, Something Strange Is Going On. The kitchen faucet turns itself on. The neighbor's dog won't stop barking during the daytime. There is a pungent smell somewhere in the kitchen. The couple's relationship troubles, specifically his history of infidelity and her recurring alcoholism, find themselves in the way of real connection again, but let's not dwell on actual character development. Sure, their daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry) is bulimic and hiding the evidence in a really weird place, and their son Michael (David Mazouz), the one with autism, is even less responsive than usual.

It is of little or no matter to the film at hand. Mclean is more concerned with the vapid light-and-sound show of the third act. Even the particulars of the threat aren't as important as the fact that a strange burn mark on Michael's wall is actually some sort of portal into another dimension, complete with shadowy hands protruding from it, or that the Anasazi, a tribe of Native Americans who mysteriously disappeared centuries ago, might have risen again due to the involvement of some magical stones. It's the usual, hokey nonsense, but at least the healers (played by Alma Martinez and Ilza Gonzales), who are referred to the Taylors by his boss and the boss's wife (Paul Reiser and Ming-Na Wen), are able to flush them out with more of that familiar, hokey nonsense.

That's not a spoiler but a reminder of the kind of film with which we are dealing here. All of the elements are present, as if on a checklist readily available to mark off everything that appears. The acting is uniformly mediocre, with no one onscreen able to connect with characters whose histories are blatantly spoonfed to the viewer, although Mazouz is notable for how his representation of autism is almost completely an affectation of the mannerisms and nothing more. That's the most off-putting element here, unless it's the hilarious, felt costumes worn by the stuntmen playing the five ghouls or ghosts or spirits or whatever they are that isn't relevant. "The Darkness" boasts a pretty generic title, but it fits what is a distressingly generic movie.

Film Information

Kevin Bacon (Peter Taylor), Radha Mitchell (Bronny Taylor), Lucy Fry (Stephanie Taylor), David Mazouz (Michael Taylor), Paul Reiser (Simon), Ming-Na Wen (Wendy), Matt Walsh (Gary), Jennifer Morrison (Joy), Parker Mack (Andrew), Alma Martinez (Teresa), Ilza Gonzales (Gloria).

Directed by Greg Mclean and written by Mclean, Shayne Armstrong, and Shane Krause.

Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, disturbing violence, brief sensuality, language).

92 minutes.

Released on May 13, 2016.