Mar 8, 2011

And Soon the Darkness [18]

Dir: Marcos Efron
As a big horror fan I get really annoyed when people dismiss the genre as merely an endless cycle of dumb movies about stupid people getting chased and brutalised. I hate it even more when filmmakers appear to go out of their way to make those people's case for them.

Music video director Marcus Efron here makes his feature length bow with yet another horror remake (this time of a near unknown British film of the same name from 1970), and sadly this one has to go on the ever-increasing pile of piss poor remakes. If you've never seen a horror film before then there is perhaps some hope that you'll be entertained by And Soon the Darkness, but if you've experienced more than... oh let's be generous and say three, this will hold no surprises and no thrills in its brief running time. To give Efron his dues, he's clearly learned how to make his pictures look pretty. He's immeasurably aided by the Argentinian scenery amid which And Soon the Darkness is set; there are some beautiful images here, notably in the film's last half hour, which is set in a deserted town which looks bombed out. Unfortunately everything else is a total disaster.

First there's the story, which concerns two girls (Amber Heard as goody two shoes Steph and Odette Yustman as party girl Ellie) who miss their bus on the last day of their cycling holiday in Argentina, go out into the countryside, argue, separate, and then one of them goes missing. It's pretty much the definition of generic, and if you give it even 30 seconds thought then you'll know how Karl Urban's 'mysterious' English speaking stranger and local law enforcement figure in the plot, and pretty much everything that happens to Yustman and Heard. Nothing is unexpected. The Plot O Matic 3000 clanks relentlessly away, the cogs groaning with every hackneyed scene (coincidentally, I did the same).

Then there's the acting. You can't fault Yustman's energy or effort, but she's seriously let down by the character, who is insufferable, which really doesn't help you care when she goes missing - point of fact it's a blessed relief. You can, however, fault Karl Urban's energy and effort. He shows up for perhaps ten minutes, and 'acts' as though the message we (and director Efron) are supposed to take away is 'look mate, you paid for my time, I never said I was going to betray an emotion or have an expression'. Performance wise, co-producer Amber Heard's major contribution is to speak intelligibly and look pretty. You could have put just about any actress her age in this part and have got something as good or better. This too is a major problem in getting the film to engage, because Heard never exhibits enough spunk to be an interesting or formidable final girl; there's no sense that what this character goes through has much effect on her at all.

Despite running a scant 85 minutes before the credits roll, And Soon the Darkness is long, drawn out and boring. Nearly an hour passes after a (very) brief teaser before anything remotely thrilling or scary happens, and when the film finally decides to ramp up in the last twenty odd minutes it does so in a way that feels like a sigh of contractual obligation, rather than out of any desire to scare, appall or engage the audience. Even at the basest level the film fails; it's not even violent enough to be engaging at a visceral level.

And Soon the Darkness is a shrug of a movie; a brief distraction for all concerned, now almost certainly forgotten, and best left that way.

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