Kevin Bacon leads an eclectic but effective cast in Blumhouse Productions/Chapter One Films’ thriller, The Darkness, a spooky (if not overly scary or original) allegorical yarn that speaks to the power of faith and forgiveness.
Though not as unnerving as some of its contemporaries, The Darkness blends Native American spiritual folklore with creepy hands-from-outta-the-wall special effects that bring the trembles, but not the terror.
On the surface, Peter and Bronny Taylor (Bacon and Radha Mitchell) seem the epitome of American Dream suburbia, raising a good-looking family in a good-looking house. But secrets and sins lie buried beneath the wine and wealth. And it isn’t long before their unresolved demons are overshadowed by a much more sinister bunch, hell-bent on their destruction.
During a camping trip to the Grand Canyon, the Taylors’ teenage daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry) and their autistic son, Michael (David Mazouz), explore a deserted cave with the child of a family friend. When the others abandon Michael, he falls through a hole while trying to find a way out and discovers a primitive wall painting of a group of gargantuan, humanoid creatures. A circle of five stones, each etched with a crude symbol, lie at the foot of the painting. Michael pockets the stones and finds his way out. He returns home with the rest of his family the next day.
Soon, Michael begins acting belligerent to his sister and converses with an unseen playmate he refers to as “Jenny.” Peter and Bronny begin to worry that his autism is worsening, but as things begin to get more bizarre (mysterious handprints and random wild desert animals start showing up) they suspect evil forces are at work. Bronny consults a friend (the wife of Peter’s boss) who used a medium to cleanse her own home after she suspected paranormal foul play. When she suggests the incidents may be linked to the Grand Canyon trip, Bronny begins to put two and two together. She begins to research the history of the Canyon and discovers it was once home to the Anasazi Indians, who believed in (and supposedly battled) otherworldly demons.
According to legend, the Anasazi imprisoned the five most notorious demons of the otherworld and bound their spirits to rocks, rendering them helpless to leave the Canyon’ caves. Bronny e-mails her discovery to Peter but before she can receive a response, Michael sets his wall on fire. She extinguishes the fire, but a huge, sooty smudge is left behind and it isn’t long before huge, sooty hands start reaching from it.
Peter discounts the evil spirits theory, despite personal testimony from his boss. Meanwhile, Bronny turns to alcohol to cope with her lingering anger over Peter’s past affairs and the traumatic discovery that Stephanie is bulimic. When Peter witnesses the demons’ violent attack on his family, he begins to believe. In a Poltergeist-ian thread, he enlists the help of his boss’s medium, but it’s up to him to take the final fight to the demons plaguing his family. It’s only when he reassumes that husbandly/fatherly role (and tries to return to the security he once found in the Scriptures) that he can confront the darkness and earn Bronny’s forgiveness.
Don’t expect to lose sleep over The Darkness, but do count on an engaging story, solid performances and eery visuals. And by all means, capitalize on the opportunity to link Gotham the next time you play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Talk about evil.