Jaume Balagueró is a director who does everything in his power to make the viewers of his movies feel uneasy. Two of his films are among those with which I have suffered the most in my whole life: Mientras duermes (Bed Time, 2011) and the film to which this post is dedicated, Darkness (2002). Balagueró is a Spanish director but in this case both the production and the cast are international (the legendary Brian Yuzna is executive producer). The protagonists of the movie are Anna Paquin, Iain Glen and Giancarlo Giannini.
I loved Darkness because it has a certain Lovecraftian atmosphere which is rare to find in a movie. The story is about the fear of the dark, of course, and it also uses the classic theme of the haunted house, but it does so much more! I don’t want to spoil the plot because I suppose that few have seen this film (and, judging from the low rating on Imdb, the few who saw it didn’t like it much). I’ll just write a few words on the premise.
A family made of father (Iain Glen), mother (Lena Olin), daughter (Anna Paquin), and youngest son (Stephan Enquist), after having lived many years abroad, decide to go back to Spain, the father’s place of origin. 40 years before, the father himself was kidnapped along with six other children and was the only one to save himself, while the others were never found. Shortly after arriving in their new home, strange things begin to happen. Regina, the daughter, is the only one who seems to understand that something is wrong, helped by her friend Carlos (Fele Martínez) and by her grandfather (Giancarlo Giannini)…
Let me stop here. The film is really scary: there are a few jump scares, but above all it has a chilly atmosphere and there are many scary elements used to build the story which result in a number of unforgettable scenes. Plus, the ending left me stunned, it’s so powerful!
By this I don’t mean that this is a perfect movie. In the last part, for example, some of the parents’ actions feel a bit forced given the circumstances (when coming back from the hospital, the living room is a bit too messy for them to go read a book as if nothing had happened!). However, we could hypothesize that the house itself is influencing their actions… From a directorial point of view, there are moments in which Balagueró perhaps exaggerates a bit with the shaky camera movements, something that I don’t like very much (after all, I’m a John Carpenter fan, I’m all in for classic dolly shots!).
But these are little details that I am willing to overlook them given the incredible power of a film with a spectacular story and in which the leading actors, Anna Paquin above all, worked splendidly. Maybe the movie wasn’t received too well because of its dark (in all senses) ending… As far as I’m concerned, it’s a breath of fresh air in today’s cinema scene and it shows once more how much Spanish cinema offers gems not to be missed! Ciao!