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Darkness (Unrated Version)

An inexplicable Christmas release, Darkness was in and out of theaters so fast you might not have even noticed it. Granted, there are horror movies that have succeeded almost in spite of the holiday season. Though it happens rarely, usually counter-programming doesn't work. It didn’t work for Darkness and I’m here to tell you why. The movie starts out as a boorish mess. An American family moves into an old house in the Spanish country side. Guess what? The house is evil. The signs are all there. Youngest child Paul (Stephan Enquist) starts showing up with mysterious bruises on his body. Mom seems on edge. Pencils are magically sucked under the bed. Dad’s old illness, which has to be fake since the only way I can think of to describe is as rage-itis, flares up again. No one notices except older daughter Regina (Anna Paquin).

Alright, at first her family’s head in the sand attitude is understandable. Mom is in denial that Dad is an abusive loon, and doesn’t want to admit there’s something wrong. Ok, I get it. But when Dad finds a secret cubbyhole in the wall containing a record player that plays itself, you’d think someone besides Regina might take a hint. But no, the family just ignores Regina’s warnings, and keeps right on living in their doomed devil house. The setup is terrible.

Then there’s the fact that we’re stuck in yet another evil house story. Haven’t we had enough of those yet? The Amityville Horror remake was number one at the box office last weekend, so I guess a lot of you haven’t. I have, and even if I hadn’t, this isn’t a particularly good one. Director Jaume Balagueró deserves some credit for avoiding obvious CGI and cheap, jump out from around the corner scares. I love the way he uses lighting to tell his story as well, with the power flickering in and out and creepy groups of ghost children almost, but maybe not standing around in the shadows. But Paquin is wasted and the story he’s working with is no winner. Man instinctively fears the dark because of what might be lurking in it. There’s not much lurking inside this Darkness, and thus it’s not much of a scare. When a movie enters and leaves theaters in the same week, you can’t expect much of a DVD release unless that movie is Donnie Darko. In the case of Darkness its slip into obscurity was justified, and its DVD reflects that.

It’s bare-bones, empty, wasted. Passing themselves off as content are two versions of the film’s original trailers and a bunch of sneak peaks at other films. The Sin City trailer is by far the best thing on this disc. It certainly isn’t the movie. The menus are flat and boring, the packaging features Anna Paquin (who ought to get her ass back in an X-Men costume quick, because aside from being brilliant in The 25th Hour her career outside mutantdom is going nowhere). The sound is alright, the picture is there. I believe the word is standard folks.

The only real feature in this release is a brief making of featurette with the film’s director. The guy has a lot of really insightful things to say about filmmaking, and champions things like finding more creative ways to scare people other than resorting to CGI. The problem here is that the guy doesn’t speak English, and thus the volume of his words has been dialed down low, so that he can barely be heard over the flat, bored guy translating for him in blaringly loud English. The passion for whatever it is that he’s saying is completely lost.

Darkness is finally where it ought to have been in the first place, on video. Theatrical releases for movies like this are a complete waste of time, just get them out and on the video store bottom shelf for horror junkies to obsesses over. If you have to watch it, Darkness isn’t painful, just another horror failure to add to the pile.