When being a first-time filmmaker there is nearly constant pressure to make your project ambitious as to stand out in the crowd. It has to be the most clever, the most interesting, and the most unique if it ever has a chance of being noticed by a studio. What that tends to lead to though is a film that is far too big for a new director to wrangle, which leads to an over-ambitious mess of a film. The Darkness has all the traits of a first-time film, but instead of fall into a lack of budget or technological knowledge issues, it falls into a pit of terrible decisions and becomes a chore to watch.

The house in the country was supposed to be a fresh start for David and Lisa, a little bit of a fixer-upper but somewhere they could call home. It is a quiet community that has been around for hundreds of years, a perfect place for a new start. That was before strange things started to happen around the house and Lisa began to see and hear things. As she begins to find out the house’s buried secrets, including a grave in the yard, she slowly starts to lose herself in the past.

The best film from new voices is the ones that take what would be seen as a very minimalist production and use that for the foundation of the fully realized film. A first feature does not need over fifteen characters with dialogue, which is overcomplicating your story with unnecessary filler and potential distracting actors. The strength of a first-time film like The Babadook is the film being carried by less than five characters that affect the story in any significant way. The Darkness goes for broke and has a story within a story with its own cast that doubles down on the already abundant amount of characters.

Given the absolute surplus of mastercraft films that have shaped the horror genre to what it is now, any director interested in making one just has to look for reoccurring trends to find success. The Darkness makes a truly bold statement by instead following the trends that have been done to death and even then fails to execute them effectively in any way.  Jumpscares, fakeouts, and scary moment stings are taking up an absurd amount of time and are often not even used correctly, such as a scene where we see the harbinger character gets noticed by Lisa and then later are revealed again but with the sting, to alert the audience of what exactly.

We always try to treat first-time directors with care, understanding, and constructive criticism, no one is ever perfect on their first attempt. The Darkness has a moment or two of something unique or interesting but this has to be taken as a real learning lesson if the director wants to grow their craft. Think smaller scale, work on the subtlety, and for god sake, it takes an absolute master to make something fully illuminated scary stick to the dark for now.

2 out of 10

THE DARKNESS
RATING: R
Runtime: 1 Hr. 40 Mins.
Directed By:
Joe Wright
Written By:
Tracy Letts, based on a novel by A.J. Finn

About the Author: Max Matta

A huge horror fan with a fondness for 80s slashers. Can frequently be found at southern California horror screenings and events.