A rather turgid ghost story with a simultaneously murky and silly take on the afterlife, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” stars Mischa Barton as a grieving woman who gets yet more unwelcome exposure to the dead upon moving into a former state hospital-turned-apartment building. The slow-moving tale takes nearly 80 minutes before we glimpse a ghoul, and the long, dimly lit climax offers too little excitement to compensate. Writer-director Mark Edwin Robinson’s sophomore feature looks to have minor impact at best in limited theatrical release starting Oct. 11, with better returns likely in simultaneously launched VOD.
Los Angeles photographer Sophie (Barton) has already lost her mother, and any faith she has left is dashed when her minister father admits on his deathbed that he now suspects there’s no higher power, no life after death, just “nothing.” Traumatized as she is, it’s still a bit hard to swallow her angrily sharing this viewpoint with Dad’s entire congregation at his funeral service. Her depressed mood is alleviated somewhat when her path collides, literally — it’s that kind of rote meet-cute — with that of likable Adam (Ryan Eggold, “90210”). About five minutes later, it seems, they’re cohabiting at his place, located in the above-mentioned, supposedly haunted building.
Soon enough, Sophie starts experiencing creepy phenomena, and one night she wakes up to find Adam missing, a trail of blood indicating he was dragged off. But when the police show up, that evidence has vanished. Sophie, flatmate Astrid (Leah Pipes) and a couple friends (Jaz Martin, Melinda Cohen) are left to their own devices, seeking Adam on a top floor where the mental patients “all went to die,” per the building. That it’s bad news up there is immediately signaled by mysteriously flickering hall lights, and soon the erstwhile asylum comes back to malevolent life as our protagonists suffer mortal peril.
The belated scares are underwhelming; this is one of those films in which too much action takes place in near-darkness, for reasons probably more budgetary than atmospheric. In the end, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” aims to resonate as a grand love-transcending-life-itself romance, but the relationship between Barton and Eggold’s protagonists has hardly developed sufficient depth to pull that off.
Performances are OK. But for a supernatural thriller that spends so much time on material that is neither supernatural nor thrilling, there’s not nearly enough effort put into credible, complex character writing, leaving the cast only so much ability to fill in the gaps. Tech/design package is professionally uninspired at best.