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The Dark Review

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by AVForums Apr 1, 2006 at 12:00 AM

    The Dark Review
    When Sarah, the daughter of James (Bean) and Adele (Bello), drowns off the rocky coast of Wales, the parents search in vain for their child's missing body. So when a mysterious young girl appears telling Adele she is looking in the wrong place, Adele recalls a legend about “The Dark”, the Celtic land of the dead. Haunted by ghastly visions of Sarah pleading for help, Adele becomes convinced that the legend is actually true, and as James watches in horror, Adele embarks on a journey beyond madness as she invokes the ancient rule of return - one of the living for one of the dead.Ok, I've paraphrased the back cover, but there's a method to my madness and it's not to make my life easier. The synopsis given on the back actually tells you more about the movie than it really should. It's effectively given you the basic plot for around three quarters of the movies running time, although you'd hardly know it until you watch the movie. Sure, it doesn't give away the stingers and the more intricate details of the plot, but as a speed version, you have almost everything about the movie summarised including the ending! So while I'm not trying to spoil the movie for anyone, I thought I'd take a paragraph elaborating on the issue that sometimes the people who write the covers really should consider more carefully what they write!

    So, on to the movie. The first thing that made me go “Eh?” was the use of the word Celtic - I'd heard it for Ireland and Scotland, but never in a Welsh context. So, did Hollywood get it wrong or is it just that culture seemed to exclude it from all of my exposure to it? Well, Hollywood got it right for once. Apparently Celtic mythology was split into 3 groups, 1 for Ireland and Scotland, 1 for Wales (The Insular Brythonic) and 1 for the “Bretons”, which I guess is for England itself. Well you learn something new everyday! I digress, the fact is that it's set in Wales and already for some reason I find it amusing that what amounts to a horror story is set there. No offence to the Welsh, it's just one doesn't picture horror happening in Wales. The problem is that this is compounded even more at the sight of suicidal sheep who fling themselves over the cliff to their deaths. I'm sure it is supposed to be scary, but I just couldn't stop myself from laughing. I know, I should take this movie very seriously, but it was as if they tried to simulate the scene from “The Ring” with the horse and reproduce it here. Problem was, with the horse, you could understand it but here it just came across unintentionally funny.

    Which if it makes you wonder if it was going to work as a horror, you can pretty much guess that's what I was thinking. The good news is that it picked up pace with the entrance of Ebrill, the ghoulish girl who deliberately looks like the daughter. It gets a little creepier as we watch Adele piecing the puzzle together, complete with obligatory stingers. I will say that again, there's always the feeling that they are trying hard to make it feel similar to the Japanese/Asian horrors, such as Ringu, Dark Water and Ju-On, most probably because they are the ones that everyone knows as well as all being Hollywood remakes, which increases the familiarity for people who've not seen the original (and best) versions. However, this “blessing” is also the movies curse - we've seen it all before as such and it doesn't bring anything original to the dance sadly, but that's not to say it completely fails. It is significantly better than several horror movies we've had served in recent memory, such as Boogeyman, Alone in the Dark and so forth.

    Credit where credit is due though, Bello does come across as highly convincing in her role, although she won't win awards for this, she is certainly the best actor on screen. Bean isn't in the movie sufficiently - it really focuses on mother and daughter - although thankfully, he keeps his natural accent rather than adopting the American twang I've heard recently in “North Country” which is truly terrible (good movie, bad accent), he copes without putting any real effort into the part compared to other roles we've seen him in. As for the young girl playing Ebrill, she's suitably odd for the part to work, but I never think these roles give the actors much opportunity to actually flex artistic muscle.

    So, in brief, we have an average horror, that has far too many similarities to the Japanese horrors we've seen in original or remade form, with an unintentionally funny moment which makes it very difficult to take the movie seriously afterwards, but and it's an important but, almost recovers with the latter parts of the movie. Not a complete failure then, but not a complete success. If you don't mind seeing another rehashed idea, you'll probably enjoy this, but don't say I didn't warn you about the sheep.