There are many bad movies that come out in any year (in fact, there seems like more bad ones every year), but rarely does one come across a movie like "Darkness", where not only is the film in question poor, but it's a disasterous mess. The film, which has sat on the shelf at Dimension for a couple of years, appears to have gone through so much post-production tinkering that the end result is a chopped-up mess that appears to have been edited by a team of monkeys, working around the clock.
A bad rip-off of "The Shining", among other horror pictures, "Darkness" stars Anna Paquin as Regina, a teenager who suspects mysterious goings-on in the Spanish house her family has just moved into. Her mother (Lena Olin) is extremely bitchy, while her father suffers from some sort of illness that occasionally has him flying into an uncontrollable rage. Of course, her and her little brother are the first to see the supernatural goings-on in the house. There's also something about a ritual that went wrong 40 years ago, a child that escaped and something about it happening again during the eclipse that's set to occur within a few days. Giancarlo Giannini, totally wasted, occasionally turns up to warn Paquin's character.
"Darkness" is a lousy effort from director Jaume Balagueró, who does a terrific job at ripping off several major horror films, including "Shining", "The Others" and "Sixth Sense". Worse yet, his sense of style and pacing are terrible in comparison to the films he's taking from here. Worse yet, he adds his own touch, a "shaky-cam" that has the camera shaking uncontrollably at fairly random moments. It's irritating and, rather than disorienting the audience, the audience is irritated and wondering what's wrong with the camera operator. Overall, the film's shocks are primitive and ineffective cliches - the old "what was that?", "do you hear something?" as dark figures scatter in the background. Attempts at creating atmosphere and tension don't work, because the entire film seems like a case of, "been there, seen that done much better."
The characters aren't well-developed, some elements (Regina's swimming) go nowhere, and the ending looks like the filmmakers ran out of money, ideas or both. The third act starts to get mildly interesting at times, but the ending really takes all the air out of it. The performances don't help matters, as Paquin is either too subtle or too loud and shrill, Giannini is wasted in a nothing role and Olin looks upset, both as a character and an actress. Easily one of 2004's worst films.
The "Unrated Edition" DVD doesn't save the picture, adding about 15 minutes of additional footage. There's wasn't any gore in the theatrical cut and there really isn't any here, either. Only a couple of curses are heard, as well. Once again, "Unrated" doesn't seem to mean a whole lot.
VIDEO: "Darkness" is presented by Dimension/Miramax in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is actually a very nice transfer, with excellent clarity and detail, even in some of the darker sequences. A couple of wide shots look slightly fuzzy, but the majority of the picture offers crisp, clear images.
Edge enhancement is present in slight amounts in a few scenes, but aside from that, the picture appears crisp, clean and rather "film-like". The picture's subdued color palette is accurately presented here, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: "Darkness" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Miramax. The film's sound design is generally pleasing, with a satisfactory amount of surround effects. The rear speakers deliver fairly consistent effects and eerie ambience. What ruins things a bit is the score, which is jarring and doesn't seem to fit well with the movie. Attempts at "shocks" in the score call too much attention to themselves. Dialogue seemed crisp and clear, while effects sounded dynamic and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: A brief "making of" is about it - it's accompanied by promos and a trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Darkness" is about as close to a total loss as one can find in a major studio release - the film's editing is terrible, the acting is disinterested and the writing and direction weak. The "unrated" footage doesn't make much out of what wasn't a whole lot to begin with. The DVD does offer fine image/sound quality, but I'd still recommend skipping "Darkness".