I’ll give The Darkness points for originality: It’s the only film I’ve seen that’s managed to fit hackneyed tropes about Ancient Indian Magicks and “how ‘bout those creepy autistic kids, huh?” into one movie. So, uh, props to director/co-writer Greg McLean for that dubious accomplishment. Now please never direct another movie again.
The basic plot of this low-budget horror blahfest is that a seemingly normal family—architect father Peter Taylor (Kevin Bacon), stay-at-home mother Bronny (BRONNY) (Radha Mitchell), teenage daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry), and son Michael (David Mazouz), who’s on the autism spectrum—go off to the Grand Canyon all happy and nice and come back fucked up and haunted, thanks to some demon-infested stones Michael pilfered from a cave. The stones hail from the time of the Anasazi, who centuries ago picked up and left their desert homeland because—as The Darkness tells us—their demon elders got their shits and giggles by manipulating people to bring out “the darkness” in them, then swooping in and kidnapping their kids; so the Anasazi were like “fuck you, we’re trapping you in some stones and leaving, assholes.” Michael brings the stones home and soon becomes BFFs with the demons, because—again, in the world of The Darkness—autistic kids are super tight with all manner of supernatural phenomenon. It makes sense, you see, because of how weird they are.
Yeah. So. This is a very sensitive movie in all ways.
The malevolent influence of the demons bring the cracks in the Taylor family’s apple pie facade to life—Stephanie’s resentment of her brother, Peter’s roving eye, Bronny’s former drinking problem. McLean’s dedication to character work over generic scary shtick could be admirable, if it were done well… but it’s not. The characters are cliched, the dialogue is painfully clunky (“He’s on a whole different level than the rest of us… He’s not afraid of the stuff that scares most kids.”), and the actors look like they give just about as many shits as I did watching this mess, i.e., no shits at all.
And it’s not even scary! Not least because the Anasazi demons are punk-ass villains who don’t actually do anything. They infect a house and then, over the course of months, eventually cause family drama so they can eventually steal one kid so they can eventually… open a portal to the apocalypse? It’s never really explained. Which is weird, because there’s like 15-minutes’ worth of story here, so the screenwriters had ample opportunity in their 92 minute running time (it feels so much longer) to let us know what the bad guys’ deal is. Instead, we get—honest to God—exposition as to who the baddies are when Bronny watches a video that explains the whole thing on YouTube. She sends it to her husband. He watches it. And then two exorcists tell us the exact same thing later on, in case we need three fucking tries to catch onto fairly basic mythology. By this point we’ve known that, Jesus tapdancing Christ, you just need to put the damn stones back, for like forty five minutes, except none of the characters have figured out that Michael even has them, so it
This movie is nothing but wasted potential. Ming-Na Wen’s in it for two scenes. She sits around and talks about ~*~healing magic~*~ and ~*~there are things in the world you can’t explain~*~. Matt Walsh from Veep is there. Briefly. He says words. The Darkness puts Jennifer Morrison in a truly magnificent, Dolly Parton-worthy wig, then gives her three minutes of screentime. Instead we get Radha Mitchell, surrounded by Pottery Barn furnishings and moping, and Kevin Bacon conducting a valiant effort to keep himself from falling asleep.
Wiiiiiden those eyes, Kev. Mind over matter. You can get there.