Even Bacon can't give 'The Darkness' any flavor
Posted May 18, 2016
“THE DARKNESS” — 1½ stars — Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz, Lucy Fry, Jennifer Morrison; PG-13 (thematic elements, some disturbing violence, brief sensuality and language); in general release
“The Darkness” is as bland as its uninspired title. It’s a movie built of familiar parts that have been used better elsewhere and add up to the latest installment in a never-ending rotation of disposable B-movie horror films.
Behind the façade of a beautiful Southern California home, the Taylor family is a portrait of dysfunction.
Kevin Bacon stars as Peter Taylor, a successful architect in Los Angeles by day and struggling father whenever he can get away from work.
Peter’s wife, Bronny (Radha Mitchell), has been withholding affection as a result of their marriage problems, and Peter is having a hard time avoiding the temptation of a beautiful new understudy (Trian Long Smith) his boss (Paul Reiser) has been pushing on him.
Peter and Bronny’s teenage daughter, Stephanie (Lucy Fry), is hiding an eating disorder that is just about to be discovered.
The Taylors' autistic son, Michael (David Mazouz), has always been in a world of his own, but things get notably worse after a family outing to the Grand Canyon, where unbeknownst to Mom and Dad, he discovers an ancient Anasazi site and decides to bring home a few souvenirs.
For an hour or so, director Greg McLean takes us through the usual routine of spooky unexplained things happening around the house, until he decides to use a couple of YouTube videos to exposition away the entire plot. Turns out Michael has summoned some angry Anasazi demons to their not-so-happy SoCal home. According to legend, “The Darkness” is the process by which the demons will lure the family into their doom, starting with their children.
If you swap out the Grand Canyon sequence for a home built on an ancient Native American burial ground, you essentially have the plot of “Poltergeist,” right down to the moment where Peter and Bronny recruit a spiritual medium to clean the house. One wonders what might have happened had McLean and company decided to set the entire film in the Grand Canyon; at least the scenery would have provided some visual entertainment.
Instead, “The Darkness” gives us a drawn-out rehash of the “demon in the house” formula, dragging out 45 minutes worth of plot into an hour and a half of lukewarm horror. Everything down to naming the boy “Mikey” feels lazy and obligatory, and even the jump scares are halfhearted.
The film’s official release date was Friday the 13th, which is vaguely notable since the original “Friday the 13th” was an early landmark in Bacon’s acting career. But he doesn’t seem to be celebrating anything here, and the script isn’t giving him any opportunity to demonstrate four decades of acting experience.
The script also undercuts Mitchell’s performance, while Reiser’s supporting role is little more than a reminder that he is capable of more substantial things. Fans of TV’s “Gotham” will recognize Mazouz as young Bruce Wayne. Fans may also recognize "Once Upon a Time's" Jennifer Morrison and will no doubt be disappointed after her character — a family friend who attends their Grand Canyon excursion — is forgotten five minutes into the film.
“The Darkness” has a hint or two of potential but is much more interested in opting for the quick, well-trod path of familiarity. Frankly, it’s a path that isn’t worth your time.
“The Darkness” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some disturbing violence, brief sensuality and language; running time: 92 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.