JANUARY 9, 2011
Possibly the least essential remake yet, And Soon The Darkness is an update of an early 70s British chiller, but released about 3 years after the whole “never go vacationing!” genre had lost steam thanks to the back to back to back box-office failures of Turistas, Hostel 2, and The Ruins (all of which I liked, by the way). Since then we’ve had a bunch of DTV efforts, but mostly they were “original” films and/or had something new to bring to the table, such as Thirst which didn’t really have any enemies either than nature itself. Darkness, on the other hand, brings absolutely nothing: it’s both yet another goddamned remake and yet another goddamned movie about how traveling to exotic countries will get you killed.
The only thing the movie had going for it, script-wise, was the usual fun of trying to guess which of the mysterious townspeople were bad, and which were trying to ward away our heroes before they got hurt. Karl Urban’s character is a good example – it’s not until very late in the film that you can finally definitively say that he’s not in cahoots with the villains (and then, hilariously, he sells out our heroine in order to save his girlfriend). But “someone” (likely a producer) decided to add in a scene at the beginning of the film showing a girl (Urban’s girlfriend, I think) being tortured, complete with a quick but not quick-enough shot of her tormentor, whom we meet 15 minutes later hitting on Odette Yustman’s character. So right off the bat, a big chunk of the mystery is “solved”, and many of the other local characters never reappear again – I’m still not sure if the hotel keeper was trying to help them or not.
Worse, the opening scene, as well as a couple of quick cuts to Odette’s kidnapping and later peril, wipe away much of the mystery of the disappearances. If you think about the great kidnapping thrillers – The Vanishing, Breakdown, etc – you’d realize that in those movies, we are kept in the dark for a long time as to whether or not the victim is dead or alive. Hell even yesterday’s Short Night For Glass Dolls had that much going for it (if anything it took TOO long to get to the reveal). Not so much here – we know Odette is tied up, being given water, etc. Only the actual motive for her (and many other girls) being taken is hidden until the end, but the fact that they are all young females should be a pretty big hint.
And it doesn’t help that Amber Heard literally just stumbles upon Odette and her kidnapper. I don’t know if it was a budgetary issue or a matter of filmmaking limitation (on the commentary the director alludes to having to rewrite certain parts of the film due to actor/location availability), but she follows a cop out into another “middle of nowhere”, walks around for a while (not following the cop anymore), and suddenly just wanders into the room where Odette is being held. There’s no tension or surprise whatsoever, and it just renders most of the movie idiotic – if she can just literally walk into a room and find her friend, why hasn’t anyone else been able to do this?
Thus, the only real reason to watch the movie is to ogle the two leads and/or the beautiful Argentina scenery, all of which looks spectacular on Blu-ray. Those hoping for some nudity from the leads will be very disappointed; the film probably could have gotten a PG-13 if anyone fought for it. Both girls are decent enough actresses, but the script does them no favors – they’re both idiots. Odette is supposed to be the more carefree and reckless one, but Amber’s character doesn’t even know basic Spanish phrases (you’d think a “responsible” one would at least understand that much before heading off to a Spanish speaking country for weeks), and the reason that they get into trouble starts when they decide to go out to a bar AFTER bemoaning how early they need to get up in order to get the last bus out of town. Oh, and they DO miss the bus, aided by one of the sillier reasons for the alarm not going off in movie history – a guy banging on the wall makes the plug fall out.
Now, I haven’t seen the original, so for all I know these silly plot contrivances were taken straight from that, but if so we can just go back to my original point – why was this movie made? We have dozens of similar movies at our disposal, all of which provide both more interesting reasons to kidnap folks (forced breeding, organ donating, etc). The original isn’t particularly well revered – I doubt there was much of an uproar about them remaking it, but I would be pretty disappointed to discover that this was actually an improvement. The leads are all likable and somewhat popular, but few would be drawn to the film based on one of their names alone; even I don’t bother watching anything with Odette that’s not horror, and I think she’s one of the hottest new actresses in ages.
(Note: if you agree with me – you will very much enjoy her “karaoke” scene. #divinyls)
The commentary doesn’t really shed any light on the matter. Even though director Marcos Efron also co-wrote the script, he speaks little about the story, the original, or what drew him to the project in the first place. He and his co-commentators (the DP and the editor) gush much about the cast and crew and frequently comment about how good everything looks (and rightfully so – it’s a technically proficient* and wonderful looking film, and SHOT on film to boot), but have almost nothing to say about, say, why they decided to remake a nearly 40 year old film in the first place. And there are about 7 minutes of deleted scenes, but none are necessary in the slightest (though one at least pays off the “subplot” of the strange homeless man who is always around; in the film itself he just disappears like most of the other supporting players). The director’s diary is largely useless, unless you’re a budding DP or something, because it’s interesting to see how much color grading went into some of the climactic scenes when they show on-set footage of them being shot next to the finished product.
I guess if you’ve never seen a single one of the previously mentioned films, you might find this entertaining, but otherwise – everything in the movie has been done better. For a while I was considering maybe that the film was shot 4 years ago and just being released now, but they say Urban had to leave the shoot to do press for Star Trek, which places it in early summer 2009. Still a bit of a delay, sure, but still long after these movies had worn out their welcome. I’m up for a revival, but it needs to be something totally unique, the way Nightmare on Elm Street revived slashers after the post Halloween/Friday the 13th wannabes had died out. But this ain’t it.
What say you?
*For the most part, anyway. I don’t usually notice continuity errors, but the flower in Amber’s ear drove me insane – it disappeared and reappeared several times, and then actually switched ears before she finally got rid of it for good.