The Darkness tells the story of Lisa (Amelia Eve) and her boyfriend David (Cyril Blake) who travel to a small village in the Irish countryside after David inherits a small cottage from his grandmother, despite his grandmother having not passed away.
Straight away things feel slightly off with this new horror film, and I don’t mean in the spooky sense. This young couple have travelled to their new property to do… something. The film never quite makes it clear why they’ve come. There’s mention that they’ve inherited the home, but with David’s grandmother still being alive it’s not clear why they’ve come to the house. They’re not there to settle an estate or go through anything, and it appears that they’re simply checking out the place before gran finally shuffles off and they get to own it.
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Whilst this isn’t too bad a justification it starts to fall apart even more when the two of them talk about the work they’re planning to do whilst they’re there. It’s not clear what David does for a living, but he’s constantly fielding phone calls and working on his laptop, which is impossible to do at the house because of the lack of signal – until it’s convenient for the plot that he can do it at the house.
At the same time Lisa is there to write her next book. A book which has been decided will be a romantic comedy by her publishers, a genre she doesn’t want to write, and she has no idea what the plot is going to be or who any of the characters are. And this is not how publishing works at all. It’s kind of a little painful to watch really.
Instead of getting the peace they have been hoping for at the house, ‘spooky’ things start happening around the building. Lisa sees people out the corner of her eye, they find an old grave in the back garden, and Lisa uncovers an old journal in the attic that talks about fairies and murder; something that she takes as the starting point for her new book. Unfortunately, none of these moments actually feel scary, or even mildly creepy.
This is in part down to the fact that the film feels very flat and boring in its cinematography, and none of the scary scenes have any kind of flair to them, and there’s nothing that visually separates these moments from the rest of the film. Instead, the film relies on the soundtrack to tell the audience when it should be scared, with the fairly dull stock music being replaced by loud screechy violins whenever there’s something not right happening. Sadly, these violent musical moments never fit the scene, come across as annoying, and reek of imitation of much better horror films.
The script is also similarly lacking, with much of the dialogue feeling flat, unoriginal, and uninspired. The things that the characters say feel incredibly scripted, and unnatural in a lot of scenes. Characters should talk to each other in ways that real people do. No one feels like a real person here, and it’s not helped by what feels like stilted and sometimes quite wooden performances, especially from Cyril Blake, who has to say the word ‘babe’ a dozen times in every scene he’s in with Lisa. I heard the word babe more times in this film than the actual film Babe and it was so distracting.
Some of these scenes are made worse by the way that dialogue is played on the audio track too. In scenes where characters are talking outside, where you’d have expected some ADR if the recordings were bad, the sound is terrible. Instead of recording clear dialogue and placing it in the scene, the audio seems to have simply been boosted, but unevenly. There’s one particular scene where this stands out the most, where one character is barely audible and the other is not just incredibly loud, but all we hear when they’re not talking is them breathing. I don’t want to sound cruel, but it at times feels like the audio you get from first time podcasters rather than experienced filmmakers.
Some of the issues in the film could have been overlooked, but all together they build upon each other and make each single factor feel more and more extreme, to the point where the film feels like a no budget student film. I know that this is the first feature length film directed by Tharun Mohan, and it’s not an easy thing to do, but it was uninteresting, distracting, and un-entertaining throughout. Even if you’re a hardcore horror fan who wants to see every new release I’d say you should probably skip this one.
The Darkness is out now on Digital release.