Thursday, December 30, 2004


Darkness (Director: Jaume Balaguero)

This is Balaguero's first big movie to hit America, and it took two years. This film was released in 2002 in Spain.

For the last several years now, it seems as though Hollywood has nearly given up on Americans to deliver horror films. They've sought out the best from Japan and other parts of the world to either get the rights to release an existing foreign film here, or to remake it, and in some cases use that very same director to direct a remake. And well, you can see why. American horror, in general, has hit a wall, delivering no style or creepiness or originality. So when Ringu was made into The Ring, and it became a huge hit, a strong influx of foreign horror started coming to the States.

Of course, with quantity comes the realization that not everything from foreign lands is pure gold. This film does create a certain spooky atmosphere, but it falls into several American horror conventions.

Forty years ago, seven children went missing in a beautiful house in Spain. One child escaped, but no one could find the missing children. Now, to the present, where there's an oncoming solar eclipse, and a new family is moving into the house, complete with little boy. Older sister Regina (Anna Paquin) realizes something is wrong with the house, especially since her little brother Paul (Stephan Enquist) shows up with bruises on his neck every morning. The parents, of course, don't believe anything is wrong, even as the father, Mark (Iain Glen) starts to have seizures, something that apparently hasn't happened in years and everyone thought was a thing of the past. Meanwhile, mother Maria (Lena Olin), chooses not to concern herself with anything, believing everything is going to be just fine, especially since Mark's father and doctor, Albert (Giancarlo Giannini), says so.

After a couple of talks with (boyfriend? future boyfriend?) Carlos (Fele Martinez) and a trip to the library, where anything about weird occult practices occuring in strange houses can be found easily, Regina and Carlos try to solve the mystery and get everyone the hell out of the house.

What the film does well is when the lights go out in the house, you can discern shapes of children standing in dark areas. This effect was really good because, after the movie my eyes were drawn to dark corners, searching for hideous, otherworldly children. It's not often a movie can achieve that effect. What generally makes this movie bad, though, are all the confusing explanations and music video editing during the intense scenes. There's one scene where a character is on a train, and he believes he's seeing a monster, and the mood is ruined by the flash-cuts that follow, and you hear him scream...then he inexplicably shows up later in the film, like nothing happened, just to get "killed." Although the ending of the movie...well, it might explain that, but I'm not entirely sure.

The only actress here who does a hint of memorable work is Olin. Paquin, who believe it or not, won her Oscar for The Piano 11 years ago, does not make a lasting impression as the film's anchor. The film requires her to worry and whine and yell a lot. It's interesting, everyone here looks like the ingredients for an American family, but all of the actors here are foreign-born. Olin was born in Sweden, Paquin in Canada, Glen from Scotland, and even the little boy Enquist was born in Singapore. Giannini is Italian, and Martinez is the only main character who hails from Spain.

When stacked up against The Grudge and even Saw, this movie is pale in comparison. Also, being two years older doesn't help when the movie has been released three months after The Forgotten, another film about missing children, and with nearly the same explanation.


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