Directed by: Tharun Mohan
Written by: Tharun Mohan
Starring: Amelia Eve, Adam Bond, Katherine Hartshorne, Cyril Blake
Film Review by: Vikas Yadav
I was still waiting for The Darkness to take off when the end credits started rolling. Even after spending almost 1 hour and 35 minutes with it, I didn’t feel anything substantial happened in the movie. It keeps on building and building and building towards…something. Scenes that are meant to be crucial come and go without registering any effect on the viewer. As this is horror, we anticipate a jolt, a bump-in-the-night, a spine-chilling tingle. But you are not even rewarded with a decent jump scare! Forget jump scares; The Darkness is meant to be a homage to classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Innocents, and El Orfanato. These three films were great because they brought out horror from human behaviour. They derived scares from the psychology of their characters. Most importantly, they were more than just horror.
In Rosemary’s Baby, a woman faces betrayal from the very people she trusts. The Innocents has themes of sadness and sexual repressions. A mother longs to be with her son in the very moving and touching El Orfanato. Tharun Mohan, the director of The Darkness, attempts to replicate the themes and ideas from the mentioned films, but he fails because he merely touches on the superficies. There is a haunted house, but its corridors are left unexplored. The premise has shades of perfidy, but it’s not blended well in the story. Mohan chooses to proceed by checking the boxes, and so we get the obligatory threads like a busy husband, no mobile network, a mysterious man who will eventually roam near the haunted property, and your typical ear-splitting horror movie score that rises on cue with the ghost.
The audience, nowadays, has become more aware of the films. Thanks to OTT platforms, they have been exposed to all kinds of content, which has made them alert to and weary of done-to-death tropes. I subscribe to the school of thought, where it’s maintained that a derivative material can be freshened if the filmmaker can do justice to it. I have found that the films which totally immerse themselves in clichés come out more competent than those who merely tread on the surface.
The Darkness never digs deep into its meaty premise. It derives from Irish mythologies such as changelings, witchcraft, and possession. If the film had explored or expanded on these exciting myths, The Darkness could have been a fascinating experience filled with intrigue. Sadly, they do nothing more than pulling the plot towards its destination. The classical setup of placing a couple in a haunted house away from the rush of the city has a lot of promise to keep you up at night. But The Darkness barely keeps you invested in it. It thinks it’s creating suspense when in reality, it just drags itself to the grave.
It opens with a no-nonsense approach by wasting no time in shifting the couple to the haunted house so that the game of walking-in-the-corridor and apparition-moving-behind-your-shoulder can begin as soon as possible. However, after Lisa’s (Amelia Eve) initial encounter, nothing scary happens for a long time. The Darkness moves to investigative mode, with Amelia finding out about the house, unravelling the horrific past lurking on the grounds. This would not have been a problem if the investigative or the revelatory part had an edge-of-your-seat element. The camera is tilted to show disorientation, to create a feeling that something is not right. If the film had been engaging, this trick could have elevated the tension. The Darkness is supposed to be a thought-provoking horror/thriller, but the only thought that occupied my mind was this, “Where have I seen Amelia Eve before?” It’s good we have the Internet to solve such puzzles. I found my answer on IMDb. Eve was present in The Haunting of Bly Manor. She was the gardener named Jamie.
While you can appreciate Mohan for taking inspiration from well-regarded sources, it takes more than good intentions to scare the daylights out of you (there is a chilling visual when a corpse moves inside a bag, but we cut away before anything more happens). And what good is a horror film when it’s devoid of, well, horror?
Available on Digital May 3rd 2021.