Tag Archives: Radha Mitchell

Not Much Better in the Light

The Darkness

by Hope Madden

Back in 2005, Aussie filmmaker Greg McLean set the genre world ablaze with his merciless Outback horror Wolf Creek. An amazingly disturbing and well-crafted film, it seemed to mark a strong new presence in horror.

Nearly a dozen years later, McLean hasn’t been able to reproduce that success, although he tries once again with this PG-13 terror starring Kevin Bacon.

Bacon is Peter Taylor, and while Pete and his family were vacationing in the Grand Canyon, his autistic son picked up a handful of ancient Anasi demons and brought them home.

Back at the ranch, family members turn on each other while the dog next door barks incessantly, and a once promising director falls back on tired clichés and unconvincing FX. All this in an attempt to lead us to the conclusion that something supernatural is afoot.

Once the drama in the house sets in, The Darkness becomes a wearisome riff on Poltergeist.

Since it is now mandatory in all “is it evil or am I crazy” storylines, you can expect close-ups of computer screens as the concerned and beleaguered google ridiculous phrases and uncover incredible evidence. The mom (McLean favorite Radha Mitchell) googles “strange smells” and finds a link between autism and the spirit realm. I swear to God.

This is the filmmaker who once taught us that we do not want to play “head on a stick,” and he is now contenting himself with diluted, formulaic, toothless scares? WTF?

That’s not to say that you can’t make a good horror movie without an R-rating. The Ring was the scariest movie of 2002, PG-13 tag and all. Hell, the MPAA gave Jaws a PG and that film scared every person who saw it.

It can be done, and ten years ago I would have believed a talent like McLean would be the next filmmaker to succeed.

I would have been wrong.


Halloween Countdown, Day 4

The Crazies (2010)

Breck Eisner’s The Crazies, retooled from George Romero’s little-seen 1973 gem, offers solid scares, inventive plotting, and far better performances than expected in a genre film.

Building a cumulative sense of entrapment and dread, the film relies on a storyline whisper-close to the overplayed zombie tale, but deviates in a powerful way. The slight alteration plumbs for a different kind of terror, and Eisner’s sense of timing provides a fine balance between fear of the unknown and horror of the inevitable.

The Crazies sometimes plays like a more languid 28 Days Later (a film that clearly found inspiration in Romero’s The Crazies). All three films begin by articulating humankind’s repulsion and fear of infection before introducing the greater threat – our own government. Eisner’s film never accomplishes the heights Boyle achieved in each area, but his slower pace builds dread and flirts more often with an effectively disturbing sense of compassion.

Eisner’s greatest strength is his cast. The eternally under-appreciated Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, unerringly realistic as husband and wife, carry most of the grisly weight, aided by solid support work from folks who are not afraid to be full-on nuts. They may not scare you silly, but they’ll keep you surprised and a little grossed out, which ain’t too bad, considering.

Eisner pulls Romero’s  most notorious punch, but he also knows how to examine individual insanity. Eisner is less interested in government conspiracy and irony and more interested in bloodthirsty lunacy, which is why his film is more fun to watch.

It’ll make you rethink the car wash, I’ll tell you what.