3 May 2005 | Buddy-51
The same old thing
In terms of its storyline, "Darkness" is pretty much like every other haunted house movie ever made. We start off with the usual unsuspecting family of four who find themselves knee deep in ghouls and ghosts the moment they move into their new residence (the family is American and the home is in Spain in this outing). Of course, anyone in his right mind would hightail it out the door two seconds after setting foot in the house - but not this group! They want to hang around to see what "happens." It is Oscar-winner Anna Paquin, as the moody but perceptive teenaged daughter of the clan, who gets to have her name above the title here - a dubious distinction at best, I'm sorry to say.
"Darkness" has just about all the standard accoutrement's one would expect to find in a film on this subject. In addition to the perpetual thunderstorm taking place outside and the electricity that keeps going out on cue, we also have the self-activating toys, the strange voices on the telephone, the ghostly images on photographs, the father who becomes exponentially more psychotic in every scene in which he appears, and the mysterious old man with the limp who shows up out of nowhere and seems to hold the key to everything. Seasoned veterans will be able to predict just about every hackneyed setup and cliché a full hour before it officially arrives on screen. For instance, we just know, without room for quibble, that the minute the mother brings home a box of colored pencils for her delighted little boy to play with, the tyke will start drawing strange and disturbing pictures to help push the plot points along. It's practically de rigueur when it comes to films in this vein. (However, I must say, in all fairness, that the movie does NOT include the cat-jumping-out-at-the-audience scene, which is pretty much standard issue for every horror flick these days. The filmmakers DO earn some bonus points for that).
Paquin makes for a feisty heroine, and it isn't really her fault that her character always seems to be ten giant steps behind the audience in figuring it all out. And as to the "What the *&$%?" ending - well, it's either so brilliant that it is beyond the ken of mere mortal man to figure out, or it's one of the biggest final curtain stumbles in horror movie history. I have my own personal notion as to which of those two it really is, but I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. After all, I have to leave you with SOMETHING interesting to do while you're watching this film.