Directed by John Fawcett
Produced by Jeremy Bolt and Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by Stephen Massicotte
Director of Photograpy Christian Sebaldt
Music by Edmund Butt
Cast: Maria Bello, Sean Bean, Sophie Stuckey, Marurice Roeves

2005/93 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/UK/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD

I've written before about the Hollywood movie pitch, that is, when a talent describes their movie to a producer, is often boiled down to the clichéd “blank meets blank”. (I’ve written a script which is like ALIENS meets NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but enough about me...) While the “blank meets blank” approach is a great way to get an idea of what a film is about, the finished product should rise above that description and become much more. But, some movies don’t. While watching THE DARK, I kept hearing an imagined pitch in my head, and the movie went no further.

As THE DARK opens, Adele (Maria Bello) travels with her daughter, Sarah (Sophie Stuckey), to the coast of Wales, to be reunited with her estranged husband, James (Sean Bean). Details aren’t immediately forthcoming, but it appears that there has been some tension between Adele and Sarah, and the teenager has requested visiting her father. James’ house is perched on a cliff, overlooking a rock-strewn sea. From the caretaker, Dafydd (Maurice Roeves), Adele learns that a religious group once lived on the property, and that a mass ritual suicide took place there, with the group members leaping from the cliffs. This group believed in “Annwn”, a Celtic word which refers to a land between the living and the dead.

While playing on the rocks, Sarah falls into the ocean and her body isn’t recovered. James and Adele are devastated. But, things get even weirder when a girl (Abigail Stone) arrives at the house who claims to have information about Sarah’s whereabouts. While James searches for Sarah’s body, Adele becomes convinced that her daughter isn’t dead and that she may be trapped somewhere beyond our world.

I’m sure that THE DARK looked good on paper. It features two up-and-coming actors who have appeared in several recent critically acclaimed films and/or hits (Bello - A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. Bean -- FLIGHTPLAN, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy). The scenery, shot on the Isle of Man, is gorgeous. And psychological horror films tend to find an audience.

And yet, the whole time I was watching THE DARK, I kept thinking, this is simply “POLTERGEIST meets SILENT HILL (the game more so than the disappointing film) meets THE FORGOTTEN/FLIGHTPLAN meets any movie where an American family goes to Europe and runs afoul of local customs (or maybe RESIDENT EVIL 4)”. The idea of “Annwn” is a nice, unique touch, but otherwise, THE DARK plays like a cavalcade of “seen it before”. The movie contains all of the horror movie cliches; old, dark house, isolated location, creepy caretaker, local legend, unstable family, etc. The film is based on a novel entitled “Sheep” by Simon Maginn, but as far as I can tell from reading a synopsis of the book, a lot of the story was changed for the movie. THE DARK was directed by John Fawcett who also helmed the werewolf film GINGER SNAPS. I wasn’t crazy about that movie, but at least it strived to bring us something new.

Unfortunately, Fawcett also stumbles in the pacing of THE DARK. The film gives us a lot of story, but it doesn’t feel like much is happening as the movie progresses. Yes, at times, it is simply boring. I got the feeling that the filmmakers were well aware of this fact as several times during the movie there were sudden on-screen flashes accompanied by loud noises. These moments didn’t fit the overall feel of the movie, and I felt that they were there to wake up the viewer. (I know that I almost dozed off at least twice.) In a fine example of taking the good with the bad, the movie has one heck of a downer ending. On the one hand, this ending is effective and memorable. On the other hand, it’s only going to piss off some members of the audience who, after sitting through a boring movie, hope for a bang-up ending.

Anyone who follows horror films knows that they often get a bad rap, so it’s nice to see top-flight talent involved in a genre film. However, it does nothing for our favorite type of movie when that film is slow and unoriginal.

THE DARK enlightens DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear and looks fine. There is no overt grain, nor are there any defects from the source material. The film has a slightly dark look, but the image is never too dark, and the green hillsides stand out in the dark photography. I noticed some edge enhancement elements, but artifacting wasn’t a problem. The DVD contains an effective Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are excellent, as are the surround sound effects, which really come to life during any scenes involving a sheep stampede. The subwoofer response livens up the “shock” moments.

The only extra on THE DARK DVD is an alternate ending, which contains the same downbeat message, but with a slightly more positive attitude.





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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©

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