The Dark and the Wicked
the dark and the wicked | bryan bertino | marin ireland | michael abbott jr. | julie oliver-touchstone | demon | possession | possessed | haunted | haunting | united states | lynn andrews | tom nowicki | michael zagst | xander berkeley | religion
Film: The Dark and the Wicked
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr. and Julie Oliver-Touchstone
This was a movie that I saw a lot of people talking about in the horror groups that I’m in. It was one that I knew I would need to see during the month of December as I start doing my end of year round-up. Interesting enough, this movie was better than the one I was watching for a Featured Review on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast, so it took the place even though it doesn’t fit as well for the double feature. The synopsis though is on a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying. His family gathers to mourn, and soon darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the family.
We start this off on a goat and sheep farm in Texas. The name is said, but it really isn’t important as we don’t really ever get to see the town. The mother of this family is played by Julie Oliver-Touchstone. Her husband is dying, portrayed by Michael Zagst. She is sewing in the barn when she hears something like a wolf in the distance. She goes inside to cook and a chair behind her moves.
The movie then informs us that it is Monday. This is broken up into chapters as everything ends on Sunday. A woman approaches in her truck, Louise (Marin Ireland), where she opens the gate to enter the yard. She is greeted by her mother telling her that she shouldn’t have come. Also not respecting her wishes is Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) who is her brother. He’s helping on the farm with Charlie (Tom Nowicki) who does all the work now that their father is sick. Something interesting is that Michael has a family where Louise’s life seems to be falling apart around her.
That night, their mother cuts off her fingers while prepping food and then seems to dice them up. The following morning, they find the aftermath, but cannot find their mother. She has hung herself in the barn. The siblings are now faced with what they should do with their father. Michael is dedicated to stay until Friday, possible beyond now. Louise agrees to stay on to help care for him. There is a nurse, Lynn Andrews, who offers to get more full time care for him that they decline.
These siblings start to see more of what they’re mother was seeing. Maybe she was trying to keep them away for a different reason than not wanting their help. They find her diary and Michael sees haunting images of her. Louise sees ones of her father and they’re hearing weird noises. They encounter an odd priest, Xander Berkeley, that isn’t necessarily who he seems to be. What is going on here? Are they descending into madness due to grief or is there a supernatural entity messing with them?
That’s where I want to leave my recap of the movie as I feel that gets you up to speed. Now I know that one person that recommended giving this a viewing was Mr. Watson of The Wat-Zee Party Horror Show and Horror Corridor. He’s a fan of the writer/director Bryan Bertino and to be honest, of the movies I’ve seen him do, I haven’t seen a bad one yet. That helped to get me to sit down with this. Jaime also watched this one with me.
Where I should go with my analysis first would be the setting. Bertino enjoys giving our characters an isolated place, especially with films like The Strangers and The Monster. Here we have the farm is isolated in the country so at night, there really isn’t any where that you can run to. We also are hearing what sounds like wolf howls, so that doesn’t help with the wilderness being so close. My parents live in the country, not as far out as we’re getting here. It is also in Michigan, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can hear some spooky things at times.
Going along with this, we have the potential to be either a family descending into madness with the grief of the father dying or something supernatural is afoot. There is definitely a way to read it with the former, but I don’t think that is the case at all. This is really a film about a demonic presence. What I like here is that the mother isn’t happy to see her children there. At first I thought it could be that they’re a farming family, she is just hardened and callous which I think it is part of it. The family is fairly estranged from each other. They don’t really seem to talk as being part of it. There’s something more going on here though.
As I was stating, this family is dealing with a demonic presence. This shouldn’t come as a spoiler, so if it is I’m sorry. They handle this in a great way to be honest. It starts out subtly with things like chairs moving. From there we are getting characters that we aren’t entirely sure are really there and this demon does what it can to break them down. There is a heavy religious aspect to this. What is interesting there though, the mother and father aren’t religious. Their nurse is, but aside from that, this family really just does their own thing. It appears the mother has turned to religion in fear of what is happening here which is something that I feel is pretty common. Going farther, when faced with your own mortality, this is happens quite often as well. There are some great allegories to go along with this. For example, the farm has sheep. At night there are wolf howls, signifying that the demon is near. The bible has a line akin to humans are the sheep waiting to be preyed on. I really enjoyed that. This demon also is pushing those it is messing with to kill themselves. I think this is to commit a carnal sin which in turn would damn them from heaven. This is all something that really ticks boxes for me.
Where I think I’ll go next is the soundtrack to this movie. I have to admit, it is probably one of the strongest and creepiest aspects of this. The sound design of things that are possessed made me feel uncomfortable. The wolf and just country sounds add to that. There is also hearing things from characters that isn’t normal for them. The music selections also work very well and in its favor to build the atmosphere this movie is going for as well.
Next should be the acting then. I think that across the board everyone is strong. Ireland plays this woman that is just rundown and life hasn’t been particularly kind to. I think that works for where she ends up and the decisions that she makes. Abbott is solid as her counterpart. His life is a bit more together, but he is willing to give up time to look after his family members. Oliver-Touchstone, Andrews, Nowicki and Berkeley all round this out for what was needed with the rest of the supporting cast helping as well. Also I need to give props to Zagst for pretty much lying there and pretending to be dying most of the movie. That really adds a creepy factor to the rest of his performance. No one here is going to win awards, but I think they all do well in playing their parts.
Now if I do have an issue it comes with the effects department. All of the practical effects are good. There are no problems there. They look real and there were a couple that made me legitimately cringe. There are just a few things with the CGI that took me out of the movie. It if was one or two things, I’m there, but there were just more than that which hurts it ever so slightly.
The last thing to go over before closing this out would be I didn’t love the ending. I get where they’re taking us, but it is just too abrupt to work fully in its favor. Aside from that, I think this is a really good movie. The story ticks a lot of boxes that I like. The acting is solid for what was needed. The soundtrack and design of the movie is creepy to build the atmosphere needed. There are just a few issues with the CGI, but aside from that, the effects are good as well. This is definitely a contender as one of my top movies for the year. I’m coming in at the moment as this being a really good movie that is bordering on great.
My Rating: 9 out of 10