The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

The Dark (2005)
Director: John Fawcett

review by Paul Higson

Box office takings are not attendance figures. The numbers of bums on seats are never announced only the amount of spondula sterling spent putting them there. Today the actual figures are more widely off the mark than that. Cinemas like the AMC and the Filmworks (now The Odeon) in Manchester want their 14 or 18 screens apiece but are unwilling to match their maintenance by stumping up for the staff to cover them and that initial ticket on entry becomes a day pass to several films. This contributes to the terrible experience that cinema-going has become as youths chat over and bark through and walk in and out of films that they have not paid their hard-earned to see and therefore care not a jot to sit intently on getting said money's worth out of. Just as the auditoriums are designed to rebound sound, so it picks up the burps, farts and jabber of the kids in the seats. At the AMC, John Fawcett's The Dark was poorly attended and probably only half had bought a ticket, turning their trip into a double or triple bill, having gone foremost to see Alien Autopsy, and the one with the rating the box office won't dispute the age on. The ticket film, it will be the only one to show in the takings. It also makes a mockery of the BBFC classification on film releases, as six-year-olds dash in and out of hard gore pornographic half-wittedness like Hostel. The AMC and the BBFC must know that this is happening but the initial theatrical monies are more important than any rules. They will teach a parent when told by a schoolteacher a pupil has been up at night with the wrong rating of film but the AMC is a big concern and is not going to have to worry about a police raid for its open, repeat offence.

Regarding the box office figures, I am surprised that more noise is not made by the filmmakers, producers and distributors, unless there is some secretive divvying up scheme, as clearly the tickets are bought for the big releases, because the cinema might even place their skeleton crew on those doors to prevent sold out houses prematurely filling with the 'day pass' loiterers, and the smaller fare that makes it to the multiplexes will become the bonus feature on a ticket price for someone else. I suppose it makes up for the fact that the generations above had double bills and if I were their age I would take advantage too. Another problem with cinema releasing today is the average of 11 feature films going out weekly, the turnaround is such that if you don't catch an obvious title in its first week or two, you are not going to catch it on the big screen at all. The Proposition had great reviews and vanished in a fortnight, The Hills Have Eyes remake is shuffled off to a late viewing shot which is not handy for public transport users.

Despite the many gripes that I have against the multiplexes these days the Saturday evening screening of The Dark was not the usual problem and there was no cinema rage from me. What did happen was interesting. The row of seats rocked as two girls responded to the film's fright edits, a group of streetwise black youths mocked one another following the screening over who jumped the most (one was accused at leaping at every noise) and one girl screamed at the close of the dream sequence five minutes into the film, and left the theatre immediately mumbling, "I'm not watching any more of that," her bemused friend several paces behind her. If the distributor had rigged the cinema up with infrared cameras they could have had an impressive television spot for the second week of advertising... in addition to footage of a white and black me sitting apart from them all, bored shitless.

Oh, to be young and susceptible. I was no different at their age. This film was designed to make the undemanding youth bounce, and only then as an afterthought when it was realised by the makers that the actual content wasn't there. Watching The Dark I am reminded of Jaume Balaguero's Darkness of the year before, a second feature film from a director who's first feature impressed, surprised and entertained, that held so much promise, and a second feature film release that could not have been any more disappointing. Both films have the germ of a great idea that never made it to the Petri dish. The mistakes are also idiomatic. Balaguero made his second film in English and it is stilted. Fawcett, too, and fellow Canuck scriptwriter, Steve Massicotte, appear to have backed off having raced forward with a challenge. They took themselves abroad for the second film, but once here became phobic of colloquialism, this despite half of his characters having been shipped in from the 'States (again, the pattern of Darkness). The dialogue could have come out of an English phrase book. There is no character construction and you never come to care about the small cast or their fate, which might have been devastating and brilliant in the right hands.

Adele (Maria Bello) and her daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) reconnect with the girl's father, James (Sean Bean), on a farm near the cliffs on a fabulous section of the Welsh coastline which he maintains with his father, Dafyd, played by Maurice Roeves. Seventy years earlier it had been the location of a small community that had taken on the aspect of a cult and disappeared in a suicide pact. Half an hour of introduction at a tortoise pace and the daughter vanishes presumed to be drowned at sea. In her absence another girl of similar frame appears, in nightgown and with ratty hair, and wounds on her body that include evidence of trepanning. The girl, Ebrill (Abigail Stone) also claims to know where their daughter is and how to bring her back. The dark is a dimension of the dead, but death is no finality, and there are options for a return, though as is always the case when the evil side sets the rules, the opportunities for darkness to leave its permanent mark, or win, are infinitesimal.

The Dark dredges its way through the running time. The director knows he has something to come in the final half hour but he has neglected to give us anything to bide the time there, and once it comes we really could not care less. Neither is it everything it could be in that final half hour. There was clearly no extra story footage to rescue the film and there is no zip and only dull ITV quality shots lingering in and out of nothing as someone leaves a room or gets into a car and drives away. The film is so short of story that it occasionally feels like it is on a loop as rooms are revisited to investigate the same mystery to no effect. The sets look minimally interesting and are atmospheric. Recognisably dull, the makers were desperate to put the shocks back in and turned to the Dolby at every possible opportunity for a noise, be it a car drawing to a crunching stop, the milkman delivering with a crash of his bottles, the postman with the tremendous clank of the letterbox... well, okay I fib on the last two, but you get the gist. The Edmund Butt score is lachrymose, wafting in over dialogue where it simply does not belong, when nothing really is being said, which is contrary to what the music implies. It frequently embarrasses itself. A commemorative list of the dead from the cliff suicides reveals Roeves to have been intended among the dead. "That's you!" she exclaims, tying him into the name, Dafyd Jones. Yes, can't be too many Dafyd Jones around in that corner of Wales. The director is out of Canada and out of his depth. The dark dimension had so much potential, but even there it is done to mediocre effect. You come to wish for even a hack like Lucio Fulci to come back from the dead to lay his lunatic hands on it and turn that muggy plain into something daft but, at least, memorable. You dislike it for getting the release that Conor McPherson's Dead Meat didn't.

It has been too long a wait for so little. The Dark has none of the wit, intelligence or liveliness of Ginger Snaps. It does not bode well for other rural English horrors, the coastal ghost story Half Light and the farmyard frights of Isolation. It's one down, incredibly down, and two to go. Save your money for the next one and save yourself on at least one disappointment.
The Dark

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it
W.H. Smith

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2006 Pigasus Press