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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Darkness (2016) (Blu-ray)
The Darkness (2016) (Blu-ray)
Universal // PG-13 // September 6, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted September 5, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

The generic title gives away how forgettable The Darkness is. The Blumhouse well may have finally dried up if this unfocused Poltergeist wannabe is any indication. Producer Jason Blum is riding high off hits like Sinister and Insidious, but his production company seems to have shifted focus from quality to quantity of late. Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell play Peter and Bronny Taylor, who take their children, Michael (David Mazouz) and Stephanie (Lucy Fry), to the Grand Canyon. The autistic Michael wanders away, falls into a small cave and discovers several rocks with symbols on them. He places them into his backpack before returning home. Soon, strange things begin happening in the Taylor family's suburban house. Bronny surmises it may be due to an Indian curse, but does not realize her son has the stones in his possession.

The entire plot of The Darkness is thin. This is not a great mystery, folks, as the movie spells out exactly what is happening from the get-go, which dissolves any intrigue. Clearly influenced by Poltergeist and other dark-spirits horror films, director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) tries to set up effective familial melodrama to complement the supernatural goings-on but never succeeds. The Darkness makes some odd choices with its characters, to say the very least. I am sure some viewers will be incensed that the film uses Michael's Autism as a plot device. Neither Peter nor Bronny understands that something is wrong, because they simply placate their young son to avoid an emotional blow-up. The film allows its evil to prey on the weak, but Michael is no Carol Ann. There are other unexplored and baffling character bits, too, like Stephanie's bulimia and Peter's infidelity. The filmmakers may have been setting up some sort of evil versus the fractured family story, but they never follow through.

The film is 92 minutes of nothing happens, save for spooky sinks and mysterious footprints. I thought the movie was building toward some important reveal, but no, it is not. The central mystery, about a group of vicious Indians, is so half-hazard that I wondered if the filmmakers inserted it in post production. Perhaps there is a better story left on the cutting-room floor, but I cannot understand what attracted actors like Bacon and Mitchell to this project. And that's my biggest issue with The Darkness. Blum used to attach his name to curated projects that felt like someone actually cared. His movies are not perfect, but at least they have heart. The Darkness feels like its participants got together over a long weekend, went through the motions, and got the hell out of Dodge before anyone could review the dailies.

The acting is mostly awful, which is the final nail in the movie's coffin. Bacon could not be less invested, and Mitchell simply looks tired. Mazouz is probably the most effective, but Fry is absolutely awful. She overplays every scene, and the numerous screaming matches between her and Mitchell are downright embarrassing. Ultimately, nothing works here, and the movie absolutely deserved its dismal $10-million box office haul. The drama is laughable, the mystery is ludicrous, and the spooks are nothing more than loud noises and deception. I suspect everyone involved in this turkey will work to forget it ever existed.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly good, with strong fine-object detail and clarity. Early outdoor scenes offer excellent deep-focus detail and bold, well-saturated colors, and later, interior scenes sport good shadow detail and depth. I noticed minor ringing but no other significant flaws.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is full of audible stingers to accompany the cheap scares, so the mix is certainly active and loud. Dialogue is presented without distortion, ambient noise makes use of the surrounds, and the subwoofer is on hand to spook the audience. A Spanish 5.1 DTS track, an English DVS mix and a French 5.1 DTS track are included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subs.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release is packed in a standard case, which is wrapped in a slipcover. An insert offers a code to redeem an iTunes or UltraViolet HD digital copy. Extras include a "shocking" Alternate Ending (9:01/HD) and some Deleted Scenes (9:49/HD). I guess no one in the cast wanted to discuss this trainwreck on camera.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This Blumhouse thriller is an absolute mess. It seems to be copying Poltergeist but throws in some baffling melodrama and terrible acting to ruin the fun. The central mystery is barely explored and spooks are totally absent. Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell look absolutely miserable - and for good reason. Skip It.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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