×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Darkness

An English-language chiller that oozes technical class but is ultimately just an efficient exercise in style, "Darkness" ---- bowing Stateside after hitting European territories in 2002 and 2003 -- is a series of powerful sequences that fail to cohere. Jaume Balaguero's follow-up to his well-received debut, "The Nameless," seeks to hide its deja vu script behind a sizable ($11 million) budget, backed by Filmax's Fantastic Factory genre division. Though pic boasts decent perfs, potent atmospherics and eye-catching visuals, both psychology and plot are bargain-basement. Strictly for horror fans, pic hit U.S. theaters Christmas Day as holiday counterprogramming.

With:
Regina - Anna Paquin Maria - Lena Olin Mark - Iain Glen Albert Rua - Giancarlo Giannini Carlos - Fele Martinez Villalobos - Fermi Rexach Paul - Stephan Enquist

An English-language chiller that oozes technical class but is ultimately just an efficient exercise in style, “Darkness” —- bowing Stateside after hitting European territories in 2002 and 2003 — is a series of powerful sequences that fail to cohere. Jaume Balaguero’s follow-up to his well-received debut, “The Nameless,” seeks to hide its deja vu script behind a sizable ($11 million) budget, backed by Filmax’s Fantastic Factory genre division. Though pic boasts decent perfs, potent atmospherics and eye-catching visuals, both psychology and plot are bargain-basement. Strictly for horror fans, pic hit U.S. theaters Christmas Day as holiday counterprogramming.

Mark (Iain Glen), wife Maria (Lena Olin) and kids Regina (Anna Paquin) and Paul (Stephan Enquist) take up residence in an apparently idyllic rural house with a past. The house-warming party is well-attended by people who later fail to show up when the going gets creepy. Soon it’s raining constantly, the lights are flickering on and off, and Mark is showing the first signs of mental disturbance — after a respite of 10 years, he again starts suffering from Huntington’s disease.

There are isolated shocks during the film’s first half, but the buildup is too slow for any sustained tension. Regina suspects something is wrong but is able to convince only her Spanish b.f., Carlos (Fele Martinez, speaking poor English); her parents refuse to believe her. Soon Paul, her brother, is doing drawings of kids who have been hanged and Regina is finding marks on his neck. She and Carlos decide to get to the bottom of things by visiting Villalobos (Fermi Rexach), the broken-down old architect of the house.

The script gets inside the minds of the protags, but the problem is that, apart from Regina, they don’t have much mind to get into. Glen is unable to tease much out of the character of Mark, apart from decency at the beginning and sub-“Shining” madness later on, though making a line like “There are larvae everywhere — I hear them whisper” ring true would be beyond most thesps. Olin’s Maria is too hard-nosed to be likable, with the result that their relationship is flat and unconvincing.

The kids are stronger, particularly Paquin, whose freshness as Regina combines well with her fortitude as she takes over her mother’s role and tries to save her folks.

The idea that it’s the darkness itself that’s to be feared, rather than what it conceals, is neat, but the script is unable to sustain it.

“The Nameless” was genuinely disturbing because it was so deeply rooted in its characters. In contrast, “Darkness” is rooted in the noisy, high-budget, color-drenched school of hard shocks.

Visuals are consistently powerful, with the everyday — hands slicing potatoes, a silhouette of a man holding an umbrella — cannily converted into chilling images.

Several minor implausibilities also are generated by the movie being in English but set in Spain.

Darkness

Spain-U.S.

Production: A Filmax (in Spain)/Dimension Films (in U.S.) release of a Filmax (Spain)/Dimension Films (U.S.) production, in association with Via Digital. (International sales: Filmax Intl., Barcelona.) Produced by Julio Fernandez, Brian Yuzna. Executive producers, Carlos Fernandez, Guy J. Louthan. Co-executive producer, Antonia Nava. Directed by Jaume Balaguero. Screenplay, Balaguero, Fernando de Felipe.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Xavi Gimenez; editor, Luis de la Madrid; music, Carles Cases; production designer, Llorenc Miquel; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS stereo), Salva Mayolas, Dani Fontrodona. Reviewed at Filmax screening room, Barcelona, Sept. 10, 2002. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: Regina - Anna Paquin Maria - Lena Olin Mark - Iain Glen Albert Rua - Giancarlo Giannini Carlos - Fele Martinez Villalobos - Fermi Rexach Paul - Stephan Enquist

More Film

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” based on the memoir of the late Lee Israel, topped the screenplays [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content