GORE IN THE STORE
THE DARKNESS *
Directed by Tharun Mohan.
Starring Amelia Eve, Cyril Blake, John Sugden.
Horror, UK, 93 minutes, certificate 15.
Released in the UK by 101 Films on May 3, 2021.
Young couple David and Lisa, or “Legendary Lisa” as she refers to herself at one point, take a trip to Ireland to spend some time in David’s grandmother’s country house. Once there Lisa, trying to overcome writers block and find inspiration for her second novel, begins to experience ghostly visions. These experiences are heightened by the discovery of a luggage case in the loft that contains a diary that belonged to a woman named Niav, a young woman who lived there almost a century before after falling in love with Brian. Lisa soon starts behaving in odd ways causing David concern and to seek help from local eccentric ex-priest George who has his own history with the house and its past inhabitants.
From its generic title, search IMDB and count how many films, tv and web series have also claimed that title in the past decade alone, to its daytime tv soap aesthetics there is little to recommend here. There are glimpses of a passably diverting folk horror/ghost story in here from time to time, but they are all too often smothered by a script that repeatedly trips itself up backtracking to explain itself through a structure that includes stories within stories and multiple flashbacks to multiple time periods that soon become difficult to keep track of. By the time we reach an undercooked finale the effort hardly seems worth it.
It may prove to be of interest to fans of actress Amelia Eve, who recently won over audiences in the similarly themed THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR with her performance as Jamie the kind hearted gardener. Looking completely different here she at least rises to the challenges presented to her with the scripts paper thin characterisation. As the film progresses and her character falls under the influence of the supernatural, she manages to make a fist of things with one highlight showing her eating a sandwich in a sinister manner. No, really. Given less to work with is the rest of the cast, particularly Cyril Blake as David who struggles to breathe anything fresh into his role as concerned boyfriend.
Obviously written around the main location of the picturesque house the films low budget also struggles to keep up with its ambitious juggling of multiple time periods. Authenticity to the respective periods is often undermined by the appearance of contemporary haircuts and piercing marks failing to hide the presence of recently removed facial jewellery. These are minor quibbles but ones that immediately jump out and perhaps could have fallen by the wayside if more attention had been put into working on and strengthening the script. Perhaps less forgivable for a casual viewer are the repeated instances of poor sound mixing, particularly when it comes to the lengthy and muddled revelations often delivered in hard to hear dialogue often overshadowed by atmospheric noise or music making the hard to follow plot more difficult to keep a handle on.
At times it is reminiscent of when daytime UK soaps attempt to do a spooky or horror themed episode. At times a dark edge surfaces that threatens to differentiate it from that type of thing but sadly with its complete lack of scares and atmosphere it seems like it is trying to emulate those shows and fails to even achieve that let alone trying to tell a well-executed horror story.