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Darkness: Unrated Version DVD Review

Darkness: Unrated Version

October 5, 2005

Director: Jaume Balagueró,
Starring: Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen, Giancarlo Giannini, Fele Martínez, Stephan Enquist, Fermín Reixach, Francesc Pagés, Craig Stevenson, Paula Fernández, Gemma Lozano, Xavier Allepuz, Joseph Roberts, Marc Ferrando, Josh Gaeta, ,

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DVD Review

Ever since the success of Re-Animator (1985) launched his career as a horror film producer, Brian Yuzna has remained independent and to keep it that way he’s gone from making his movies in the United States to Europe where it costs less. His latest effort is Darkness (2002), made in Spain only to be acquired and promptly buried by Dimension Films for two years before a low-key theatrical release with cuts to make it more accessible. It has finally been released on DVD in its original form.

Regina (Paquin) and her family have moved into an old house in the Spanish countryside. Everyone is adjusting to their new surroundings but she misses her old way of life back in the United States. Like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining (1980), this house has some bad mojo. Something bad went down in the house 40 years ago and a malevolent force begins to make its presence known: power outages occur suddenly and for no reason; a toy mysteriously activates itself and the son has mysterious scratches on his neck.

Fixing up the house puts a strain on everyone, especially the father (Glen) who begins to act erratically. Regina is no dummy and realizes early on that something isn’t right with the house and that it is affecting her family in unsettling ways. Her little brother, Paul (Enquist), starts drawing disturbing pictures and her father is becoming an increasingly aggressive madman. So, she decides to stick around in order to find out what’s going on.

Ever since her Academy Award winning turn in The Piano (1993), Anna Paquin has, in her brief career, created a diverse body of work, ranging from Hurly Burly (1998) to X-Men (2000) to 25th Hour (2002). This unusual horror film is a fitting addition and showcases her considerable range as an actress.

Director Juame Balaguero wisely creates a foreboding sense of dread early on and never lets up. For example, Regina returns home from school on a rainy night and spots a mysterious figure in the darkness. It’s a brief shot but creepy nonetheless. He uses fleeting, sudden jolts of disturbing imagery. Shadowy figures flash by the camera as he messes with our perception and imagination. As befitting the title, the director plays around with the absence of light, with shadows and with what we can’t see. There’s a scene where a character walks down a hallway that becomes darker and darker until he is engulfed by the darkness. It is one of the film’s most striking images.

Balaguero thankfully eschews a trendy young cast of TV actors from UPN or the WB in favour of someone like Paquin who plays a smart and resourceful young woman who is by no means a shrinking violet. The only glaring cliché that Darkness resorts to is the old chestnut where the bad guy explains his master plan thereby giving our heroine enough time to escape. Otherwise, this film is a nice alternative to formulaic movies like Cursed (2005) and House of Wax (2005).

Special Features:

“Darkness Illuminated: Behind the Scenes of Darkness” features brief clips of the director and the cast with clips from the movie. In this day and age of CGI-heavy movies, it is nice to see that Balaguero created many of the film’s effects in camera.

Finally, there teaser and theatrical trailers for the movie.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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