Darkness

on December 25, 2004 by Matt Caracappa
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Unabashedly cliché and derivative at every turn, "Darkness" stars Anna Paquin as the teenager in a family of four who moves into an anywhere-but-the-city traditional home chock full of evil spirits. There's the usual gamut of "what was thats" and "did you sees," inexplicably overlooked by all but the alleged hero characters, leading to larger scares with more visual payoffs some fifty-five hours later. The story revolves around some kind of haunted eclipse that threatens to raise old, ticked-off spirits to do more ticked-off spirit things.

"Darkness" tries to survive on an aura of unknown creepiness, but that's really just a nice way of saying that very little happens of any interest during the film. The tried-and-true twists and scares feel like something the producers slapped on so they'd have something, anything, to make the trailers look interesting. If you haven't seen many classic horror/slasher/thriller films, there's a chance that you'll take something home from "Darkness" besides drowsiness. But if you have a DVD library full of the iconic entries ("The Shining," "Amityville Horror" &c.), you're just going to see the same old stuff revisited by a team thoroughly incapable of coming up with their own frights and a cast that makes the least of what little there is to work with. Anna Paquin lacks the intangible extra "oomph" that might have lifted this one out of the pail. When the lead in a horror film confuses the direction to "look scared" with "look like you're being tickled by Grandma," the work is harder to defend. Also ineffective is the requisite "creepy kid," who, lest you think the kid isn't creepy, has had circles the size of watermelon slices painted under his eyes.

There have been murmurs regarding how many meaty bits were cut from "Darkness" to achieve the coveted PG-13 rating. Perhaps an unedited, uncouth DVD release will show a better effort; if not, better to leave your screens in darkness. Starring Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen and Giancarlo Giannini. Written by Jaume Balaguero and Miguel Tejada-Flores. Directed by Jaume Balaguero. A Miramax release. Horror. Rated PG-13 for horror imagery and language. Running time: 102 min

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