The Dark (2005)
the dark | john fawcett | stephen massicotte | sean bean | maria bello | sophie stuckey | religion | mythology | simon maginn | based on | novel | haunted | haunted house | ghost | ghosts | maurice roeves | abigail stone | richard elfyn | casper harvey | eluned jones
Film: The Dark
Director: John Fawcett
Writer: Stephen Massicotte
Starring: Sean Bean, Maria Bello and Sophie Stuckey
This is another movie that I had never heard of until it popped up in that horror movie encyclopedia that I’m working through. Aside from the blurb that was in there, I came in pretty blind. It did have Sean Bean and Mario Bello, who are both actors I do like so that intrigued me. The other thing is that I learned during the opening credits that it is based off a novel from Simon Maginn. The synopsis here is when tragedy strikes this broken family, they are visited by a young girl who has a startling resemblance to their daughter.
Now I will be honest here, the synopsis on the Internet Movie Database has a bit of a spoiler in my opinion so I doctored it a bit. We start this off getting a look at the countryside of where this movie is taking place. We also see items floating in the water and crashing against the rocks. From my understanding this is Wales. The reason we are here is that Adèlle (Bello) is estranged from her husband of James (Bean). Now that school is out for the summer, Adèlle is bringing their daughter to visit. Her name is Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) and we see that her relationship with her mother is strained.
They get caught in the rain during their drive and stop for the night. Adèlle wakes the next morning to see her daughter is gone. They are close to a cliff and there is a stone sticking up near the edge. She sees Sarah go behind it, but doesn’t see her. When she goes to check, her daughter is gone. She worries she went over the edge. This turns out to be a dream. With both of these ladies awake, they continue their journey and realize they weren’t that far from the house James is fixing up.
With the family reunited, we see that whatever issues between Adèlle and James are, they still have solid enough relationship. We also meet a local who is helping James by the name of Dafydd (Maurice Roëves). He is a bit rough, but they all get along.
In their time there, we get to learn about the local legends of the area. The stone we saw earlier has a plaque removed and carved into it is the word Annwn. This word has a meaning of place you go after you die. The legend is talking of a man’s wife going there and him traveling to get her back. This seems a lot like the myth of Orpheus going to the underworld to bring back Eurydice. It seems that back in the 1950s, there was a minister of sorts who started his own religion based on this. His name was Rowan (Richard Elfyn). The result of this was most of his followers jumping to their death from the cliff by the rock. It is eerie that the sheep in the area gets spooked, trample Sarah and many jump to their death in a similar fashion.
Adèlle explores the area to find an abattoir, which is a place where sheep would be slaughtered. There is something off about this place. Things take a dark turn when Adèlle takes Sarah down to the beach. She disappears and a full scale search of the water/area takes place. They can’t seem to find her. This is when a mysterious girl of Ebrill (Abigail Stone) appears. Adèlle is convinced that the religion from the past is based in some truth and her daughter is trapped in Annwn. Can she prove this and save her daughter before it is too late?
That is where I want to leave my recap and start off this part of the review stating that this movie has an interesting idea for me. If you know me, I’m fascinated by religion and mythology. Learning about this myth from Wales sucked me in. I don’t know if what we’re learning is real, I haven’t had a chance to look into it. Even if it is just made up for the movie, I still was intrigued by this.
Shifting a bit over, I love the idea of Rowan as this shepherd. This is drawing parallels to Jesus, who is considered to be shepherd. The flock is his followers. It is interesting this idea of the sheep because the name of the novel is actually Sheep. When the back-story is filled by in Dayfdd, it really made a lot of sense to me. Back to what I was getting at though, unlike Jesus, Rowan has his followers kill themselves for his own selfish needs. I can’t blame him for the reason behind it, but we shouldn’t sacrifice others for being selfish. There is also an interesting concept here where his followers blindly did what he said due to faith. They almost seem like lemmings in that regard.
That will then take me to what is at the core of this movie, a family drama. We never learn what caused James to leave. Adèlle seems to have a bit of a drinking problem so I don’t know if that is why he left or is that started because he left. Sarah was left with Adèlle and the younger woman wants to be with her father. This causes strained between them. We see that the Adèlle and Sarah bicker. As the movie goes on, we see this caused a pretty traumatic thing to happen. This all adds elements to story and pushes us to what we get in the third act.
I next want to move this into the effects. The concept of Annwn is an interesting one and I like the visuals we get there. We don’t really know if what we are seeing there is real or not. I won’t spoil why, but I do like having this hazy greenish color. You can tell it isn’t the normal world. There is a bit of nightmare logic there as well that works for me. Aside from that, I like what they do to make people look evil. It is even better what they do with the sheep on that side as well. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects aside from that, but there is some hinted torture. We don’t see a lot of it, it is implied, but we do get some blood there which worked for me. Aside from that, I thought the cinematography worked as well.
The acting is where I’ll go next. I thought that Bello was fine as our lead here. We get to see that she is a broken character. She loves Sarah and wants to do what she can to repair their issues. She has to fix herself first. Bean is good as the father. What I like here is that he is more of the rock. He doesn’t believe the supernatural, but he is doing everything he can for his daughter. Roëves is good as the character to fill in the back-story. Stuckey is fine along with Stone. I also like the brooding entity that Elfyn portrays. Aside from them, the rest of the cast fits for what was needed.
Then briefly the last thing would be the sound design. I do think the movie missed a bit of an opportunity here. James and Sarah play a game with Morse code. They do use this when she disappears to get Adèlle to try to keep looking for her. I think they dropped the ball a bit here though and don’t do enough with it. The rest of the sound design and the music fit for what was needed though.
In conclusion here, I think that there is an interesting concept to the movie. I think that story they present to us works. There is a family drama that is at the crux and the possible supernatural elements underneath it. I’d say the acting works for what was needed to bring this life. The effects we get work. I do think there is a missed opportunity though with the sound design. One last thing to say is that I watched on the DVD the alternative ending and I think they went with the right one for the movie. It is darker and more brooding which is what I prefer. So with that said, I think this is an above average movie. It is just lacking some elements for me to bump it into the next level up.
My Rating: 7 out of 10