Blumhouse Tilt is the new distribution division from the team that brought audiences Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno. This weekend debuts the newest horror film from BH Tilt, Greg McLean’s supernatural thriller The Darkness starring Radha Mitchell, Kevin Bacon, and Paul Reiser. The story follows a privileged and wealthy family who comes home from their vacation at the Grand Canyon to discover that their autistic son has brought back a quintet of evil spirits in his backpack.
When Bonny and Peter Taylor bring their son and daughter back home from their Grand Canyon camping trip, strange occurrences begin to happen in their home. Their autistic son Mikey starts showing signs of being influenced by supernatural entities and within days, his behavior grows hostile and violent. As more and more signs point to a ghost infestation or demonic possession, Bronny and Peter begin putting the pieces together and realize that their whole family is in great danger.
The Darkness is a huge misstep for modern horror. This film is almost so bad it’s good. There are plenty of scenes in The Darkness that are lifted directly from its influences to include Poltergeist and Poltergeist II, 2012’s Sinister and countless movies that attempt to use myths from Native American folklore as scare bait. The fact that UCB founder Matt Walsh opens the film as a friend of the supernaturally affected family makes me wonder if the production was self-aware and possibly in on the joke. There are too many times in this movie where fans of horror will find scenes unintentionally funny and laughable.
The protagonists in The Darkness is terrible at dealing with hardship. Radha Mitchell recently spoke with us about portraying powerful female roles on screen, and here she does a great job keeping her family together until she begins to suspect that evil forces are attacking her family. Bronny Taylor is a tough mother figure in the film, but when her home life falls apart, she quickly succumbs to alcoholism. Kevin Bacon’s Peter is guilty of cheating on his wife and appears to struggle with this issue constantly, and having his slimy loudmouth of a boss played by Paul Reiser around to enable this behavior certainly doesn’t help any. Also adding to the dysfunction in this family is the fact that their daughter suffers from bulimia and violent outbursts. If it weren’t for the demons that entered their home, the Taylors probably would have self-destructed on their own.
What gets me is how The Darkness missed every opportunity to be disturbing or at least gory. Even with a PG-13 rating, this film seems neutered and cut to ribbons. Every time a plot device gets introduced, the opportunity for closure is either ignored or squandered. This movie had the potential to use its villains in plenty of creative and terrifying ways. The Darkness takes the mystery of the Anasazi and creates a myth that five shadow spirits take on the forms of a snake, coyote, crow, bull, and buffalo and steal children to transport them to a spirit realm for ritualistic sacrifice. The potential for that premise to deliver solid horror is endless. What The Darkness does with that idea is waste it completely.
With better direction, writing and editing, The Darkness could have been amazing. A film about hostile spirits that take the forms of animals and appear as terrifying tribal creatures sounds like a fun time. It’s a shame that this movie falls prey to so many bad modern horror tropes. Having your main characters researching the antagonist online never makes for a good montage, but whoever had the idea to have Kevin Bacon search the keywords ‘autistic supernatural’ during a montage needs to stop. The most ridiculous moment in the movie happens when an exorcist yells at a pair of party balloons, only to have them deflate as soon as she shouts, “This is a house for the living!” in Spanish. That’s The Darkness in a nutshell; a deflated attempt at horror that could have been a fun time for everyone, but fell completely flat.