The Darkness full movie review - "The Darkness" is best enjoyed with the lights off. And the movie projector.
Anaasází (or, Anasazi) is what the Navajo Indians called a mysterious ancient Native American civilization (also known as the Ancient Puebloans) which existed around 1,000 years before Jesus walked the earth.
The name has been translated as "Ancient Ones" or "Ancient Enemies", among other things. The Anaasází built seemingly inaccessible cliff dwellings throughout the region that is now known as the Four Corners area of the United States. The sudden, unexplained complete disappearance of the Anaasází has mystified archaeologists for 150 years. One theory is that the Anaasází underwent a profound change in their religious beliefs, some scholars even suggesting that this involved demons from Anaasází folklore. Native Americans consider the Urraca Mesa in northern New Mexico (to the east of the Four Corners) to be a gateway to the demon realm. Some parts of the Grand Canyon (to the west of the Four Corners) are said to be haunted. What's the relationship between these legends, which are so loosely connected by geography and a general belief in a supernatural evil? Well, the 2016 horror film "The Darkness" (PG-13, 1:32) ties these legends together. Unfortunately, the scariest thing about this movie is how bad it is.
As the story begins, two families are camping together in the Grand Canyon. Joy and Gary Carter (Jennifer Morrison and Matt Walsh) have a teenage son named Andrew (Parker Mack). Peter and Bronny Taylor (played by Kevin Bacon and Rhada Mitchell, and, yes, I checked those spellings) have a teenage daughter named Stephanie (Lucy Fry) and a tween son called Mikey (David Mazouz), who happens to be autistic. After their families enjoy a cookout, the three kids wander off to check out a cool-looking rock formation. When Andrew and Stephanie climb higher for a better view, Mikey falls through the ground and into an ancient room constructed and used for some spiritual purpose. On a stone altar, Mikey finds five carved black stones, which he puts in his backpack. No one else is aware of any of this and Mikey either wasn't aware or didn't care about the rules in our national parks. To quote the Grand Canyon website: "Possessing, destroying, injuring, defacing, removing, digging, or disturbing from its natural state any plants, rocks, animals, mineral, cultural or archaeological resources? is prohibited." Oh, yeah, and ancient evil spirits. You probably shouldn't disturb or remove them either.
Back home in L.A., bad things start happening to the Taylors. (The Carters aren't seen or mentioned again, so you can just forget about them.) Peter gets an attractive new assistant (Trian Long-Smith) at his architectural firm and his boss, Simon (Paul Reiser), practically dares Peter to sleep with her. Bronny, who rarely smiles, grows more sullen, drinks vodka straight out of the bottle, nurses a grudge about one of Peter's past indiscretions and fears that he's having another one. (Oh, and Peter and Bronny argue more and more about? pretty much everything.) Stephanie is a typically disagreeable teenage girl who develops an eating disorder and has wild mood swings. The only one in the Taylor family who seems happier than before is Mikey who now has a new imaginary friend whom he calls Jenny. The family writes off Mikey's imagination (and his increasingly bizarre behavior) as manifestations of his autism.
The film's focus is primarily on what happens to the individual family members and the bonds between them as things go from bad to worse, but there are also strange happenings inside casa Taylor. Scary shadows are seen, strange noises are heard, unusual animals appear, the neighbor's dog starts barking a lot more and black handprints appear on walls, bedsheets and, eventually, people. Fearing some kind of haunting, Bronny discusses all of this with Simon's wife, Wendy (Ming-Na Wen) who once used a Native American spiritualist to heal her sick son. Next thing we know, Teresa Morales (Alma Martinez) and her granddaughter, Gloria Ortega (Ilza Rosario), stop by the house for coffee and an attempted exorcism.
"The Darkness" is a derivative, condescending mess of a movie which is not frightening in the least. Director and co-writer Greg McLean has said, "The story is based on a true story that was relayed to me first-hand many years ago about an actual haunting." If that's true, the person who "relayed" the story must have been helping Bronny finish off those bottles of vodka because this story's mythology is an awkward and enhanced combination of legends separated by many centuries and many hundreds of miles, but everything focuses on a specific spot in the Grand Canyon in the 21st century ? and plays out like "Poltergeist". The film's scariest images are black handprints, which are as horrifying as a careless auto mechanic coming home from work without washing up. And, one time, black liquid spills from Mikey's mouth, but, like many details in this movie, that moment doesn't clearly connect to anything.
There are almost no characters to root for and they're mostly caricatures (all men are pigs, all women are either bitches or crazy, all thin girls have an eating disorder, all autistic kids are to be feared and so are Native Americans). Character development isn't bad, but most of it takes place on that camping trip, after which three of the characters don't reappear and I strongly suspect that whole sequence was an afterthought in the film's development. The acting is decent, but with unlikeable characters and a disjointed and ridiculous script, who cares? The movie's climactic scene has some good visuals, but it's tantamount to finding a single puddle of water in the desert ? and about as satisfying. In my opinion, the only way to enjoy "The Darkness" is with the lights off. And the movie projector. "D"