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Balaquero hits another perfect 10 on the creepiness meter
on 5 August 2005
Speaking as a veteran of many horror films, I find myself unable to comprehend the low ratings this film receives. My only regret about watching Darkness is the fact that I saw the rated rather than the unrated version. The film is a little less than perfect, but it is, without question, one of the creepiest films I've ever seen. In my opinion, Jaume Balaquero is the most exciting horror director working today. Like The Nameless, Darkness is a visual masterpiece of cinematography - although Balaquero probably tried a little bit too hard with this film. All of the random visuals are a little overdone, the movie drags a little longer than it should have for maximum effect, and the ending is - most unfortunately - far too ambiguous, but Balaquero knows horror - how to approach it and how to present it.
It's amazing how effective the haunted house motif still remains - as long as it's done right, incredible things are possible. Apart from the ending, this film is done absolutely right. The house in question here is inherently evil and most definitely haunted - although, as in real life, the greatest dangers to the innocent are men with evil in their hearts. Forty years ago, six children disappeared, but one escaped - although he could not remember enough to help the cops catch the evildoers. Now, forty years later, a family has moved into the gloomy house where the crimes took place - but only the children sense the danger lurking there. Young Paul retreats within himself and begins showing unexplained bruises around his neck, while teenaged daughter Regina (Anna Paquin) picks up on the evil presence and tries to protect her brother; the parents are less than useless. Mark, the dad, has some kind of seizure and then begins changing in ways that beg for a straightjacket, and all the while the mom just tells everyone not to worry. Regina and her boyfriend do some investigating and discover the true history of the house, its evil design and ritualistic intent, but their search takes Regina places she would never have dreamed of going. It's all pretty much up to her, though, as her parents won't listen to her and poor Paul is helplessly haunted by the ghosts of several evil children. Darkness comes with a nice little bundle of surprises; not only did the story take a couple of turns I didn't foresee, it had me guessing about other possible surprises.
The cinematography of this film is brilliant and the true secret of its palpable creepiness. You'll be looking at a dark room and then a lightning strike will silhouette these creepy children just standing there; you've got shadows that move just outside the peripheral vision of characters; and periodic sets of random, disturbing images also contribute greatly to the overall effect. These latter scenes are used too often in the latter half of the film, but it's a minor quibble at best. The only thing wrong with the movie is the ending, which is just too ambiguous to satisfy anyone. Darkness does not have a five-star story, but it's just so incredibly creepy that I cannot give it less than five stars overall. Anna Paquin proves more than capable of carrying the film single-handedly whenever she needs to. In my opinion, Darkness ranks right up there among the creepiest horror films made in the last two decades - now I just have to get my hands on the unrated version.