Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 92 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. This horror film is similar to all of those released by Blumhouse Productions, with possessed kids, creepy demons, and mostly clueless parents. Some cursing, some violence, including aforementioned creepy demons, creepy handprints appearing everywhere, and creepy entities appearing and disappearing at will. Also some familial drama, including a teenager struggling with bulimia, a disintegrating marriage, a cheating parent, and an alcoholic parent.
Blumhouse Productions releases one of its most forgettable films with ‘The Darkness,’ a poorly thought out, thoroughly unsurprising horror movie. Among all of its lame elements, its depiction of autism is upsettingly bizarre.
By Roxana Hadadi
At this point, the Blumhouse Productions formula is totally familiar, and in “The Darkness,” it’s at its worst. If you have seen “Insidious,” “The Conjuring,” or any other films from this horror studio, you know these pieces—dysfunctional family, creepy kids, threatening demons—and “The Darkness” doesn’t add anything new to the format.
The film focuses on two families, the Taylors and Carters, who after a vacation to the Grand Canyon together notice that things are amiss. Things seem to hit the Taylors first, perhaps because their family is the most fraught anyway: Father Peter (Kevin Bacon, of “R.I.P.D.”) is unfaithful; mother Bronny (Radha Mitchell) is a recovering alcoholic; daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry, of “Vampire Academy”) is struggling with bulimia; and son Michael (David Mazouz) has autism. Their family is barely keeping it together, and when weird things start happening, it takes a while to sink in.
But the weird things are, well, weird: Black handprints appear in their home, including on them. Disgusting smells permeate the house. Locked doors unlock on their own, and appliances and utilities turn off and on with no one around. Is someone trying to communicate? Is it those mysterious shadowy figures appearing and disappearing in their home? And if so, what are they trying to say—or do?
All of this is pretty standard stuff, and there’s even a bit of an updated “Poltergeist” spin to “The Darkness,” since the demonic activity is traced back to an American Indian Anasazi tribe. (Perhaps the only interesting thing about the film is the production design of these animal/warrior/god hybrids, which with their horns and their masks are pretty creepy.) But what’s offensively bad is the movie’s choice to connect the autistic Michael to these demonic entities. He’s the character responsible for disrupting a sacred site and stealing five rocks he finds there, totems that are tied to the tribe, and he’s the one that seems to befriend the demons when they appear. What does his disease have to do with the demons? It isn’t clear, but it isn’t well-thought-out, either.
There are tons of other things that are problematic, too, like scenes where characters see ghosts and demons and do absolutely nothing about it, or other instances where the actors in the film seem to be confused about the script or react incorrectly to what’s happening in the scene. And, of course, it’s the Hispanic, “ethnic” maid who knows how to battle the demons are looking up videos online, an almost-racist choice that keeps popping up in these kinds of horror films.
Altogether, “The Darkness” seems hastily envisioned and poorly executed, and it deserves to be ignored and forgotten.
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