This second edition of the Darkness DVD presents us with an unrated version, which hopes to have us at the edge of our seats ... with the lights on. Does it work?
In the cryptic opening of Darkness, a male voiceover asks for help of a young child who has escaped the clutches of a seeming madman. We see frightening images of terrified young children in a dark hallway.
Flash ahead 40 years to Spain - a family has moved into an old house to be closer to their family. The daughter Regina (Anna Paquin) wants to move, and with good reason. The mother (Lena Olin) is anyting but motherly, her brother Paul sits in his bedroom drawing horrific and her father has violent outbursts. With only 5 days to a historic eclipse strange things begin to occur. Shadows flash in the dark rooms of the house. Regina keeps seeing a mysterious man on the street. And then there are the freaky children standing in the dark rooms of the house...
The editing of this film ends up feeling like one nearly-two hour trailer. While the visual experience is definitely creepy and there is indeed suspense built (INCREDIBLY slowly) throughout the film, there's just little payoff, and so much terrifying potential with the specters is wasted.
The final moments of the film may possibly remind horror video game players of the Silent Hill. The film also strongly steals from The Amityville Horror, Poltergeists, Darkness Falls and The Shining, with a VERY "Ring"-like visual rip-off involving the eclipse on TV. But the problem is, both the living and the dead roam around in this movie with no concept of what their motivation is. A painfully mundane plot with some eerie visuals is all this is in the end. And, although I've never seen the "rated" version to compare, nothing in this version was all that gruesome..
We get the unusual aspect ratio of 2:40:1, "enhanced for 16X9 televisions." Surprisingly, the print has some very noticeable flecks, which seemed to taper off as the movie went on. Other than that, the image is deep and dark, perfectly capturing the dark atmosphere and offering excellent definition. The color levels are fine, although the flesh tones seemed a little pale and yellow.
The Dolby 5.1 surround sound is absolutely stunning. It engulfs you, it slices through the room like a knife, it pounds in your throat. All "horrific" plays-on-words aside, it is truly an astounding audio experience.
For starters, you get 13 chapters breaks from which to select. There are subtitles and captions in English, French, and Spanish. Spoken languages are either English or French. Others include:
TRAILERS—Both the trailer and teaser are included for the film, as well as sneak peaks for Sin City, Cursed, and a montage of home video releases. There is a "play all" option, and the previews begin automatically when you pop in the DVD, but you can skip them by hitting "menu".
DARKNESS ILLUMINATED—this is a 4 minute "making of" featurette. It's mostly just interviews with Lena Olin, Iain Glen, Anna Paquin, and the director, who doesn't speak much English, and who is overdubbed by a translator. He mentions wanting the movie to be a "film with moments of great intensity." Overkill, perhaps?
Darkness falls apart from the very beginning. Visually, it is pretty eerie and promises great scares, but they are few and far between, and the cast is so one dimensional you kind of end up rooting for the ghosts—but they don't even get a moment to really shine, and when all is said and done, you really are left in the dark. I think I'm being kind giving it a "rent it", but there's an off chance some people might find it worth it for a couple of chills.