SHOCK reviews Greg McLean’s unfortunate new supernatural horror film THE DARKNESS

I was so excited to sit in daytime Los Angeles traffic for over an hour to see the new Greg McLean film THE DARKNESS, starring Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell. McLean is best known for his debut feature film WOLF CREEK, a savage outback Aussie horror film that stuck in the psyche of modern American horror fans. His latest film, THE DARKNESS, is a slow-burn family drama about a white middle class couple dealing with the lasting effects of parenting disabled children – a definite departure from McLean’s usual gut-wrenching, visceral horror.

Radha Mitchell plays Bronny Taylor, a wife and mother at the center of THE DARKNESS’ story of isolation and sadness in the portrayal of modern motherhood. Like Kate Chopin and Betty Friedan’s work before him, McLean’s THE DARKNESS is not so much a searing indictment of patriarchal psychiatric and medical practices, but rather an ironic rejoining of modern, third-wave feminist bourgeois values with Native American mysticism. Thus, Bronny is dissatisfied with her life as the wife of wealthy architect Peter Taylor and as primary caretaker of Michael Taylor (David Mazouz), who is autistic, or just perhaps is mentally retarded, and who is extremely annoying and unfulfilling to interact with. Stephanie Taylor (Lucy Fry) is the incredibly annoying, sexy teenage daughter who has bulimia. Stephanie is hysterical, with her uterus always floating around inside her body at random and she always has her period. Like any real bulimic, she keeps her vomit in jars underneath her bed, instead of just vomiting in the toilet and flushing it so no one knows you have an eating disorder. I mean, honestly, Stephanie, under the bed? Peter Taylor, the architect, never seems to do much architecting but he has a gigantic office in an architecting firm where he delegates literally all of his work to people who are 22 and just started working there. Oh, and I do not want to forget Paul Reiser, who plays a wise-cracking, but tough, Architecting Boss who is always asking about a) when Peter is going to cheat on his wife and b) when are those architect drawings going to be ready on his desk?

This is the world in which THE DARKNESS is set. It’s familiar to anyone who watches lots of TV but has zero life experience. Everyone is a cliché, everyone is white (except for the mystic people), you can still be an architect (whatever that is) and make a living, and you can live in a 2.5 million dollar Los Angeles house and never once, never ever once, does your wife need to clean the house, it is always magically clean by itself. It’s a phony and kind of boring world. Into this world steps Native American Demons. The Taylor family goes on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon, and autistic Michael finds what archeologists never could: magic stones with demonic alien Native American spirit symbols on them. He pockets them and takes them home. The demons come home with him. They aren’t really scary, but, then again, this whole film makes parenthood look so hellish that I am not sure any additional terror was actually necessary (or would have been noticed).

THE DARKNESS goes from zero to 600 in about a second: after about an agonizing hour of watching the Taylor family kind-of argue, almost-sleep-with-the-assistant, almost-cry, almost-smack-their-stupid-son, almost-discipline-their-daughter, almost-bring-up-divorce, they FINALLY, out of the blue, decide that all of the bulimia, arguments, cheating, autistic behavior, and whatever other normal family problems they’re having are because of Native American aliens who are haunting their family and house. It just makes sense, folks! So, instead of getting a divorce, or going to therapy, or getting a maid so their giant house stays clean while Bronny stares into her laptop (is she supposed to have some kind of job? I never figured that out), they hire two anti-magic people to come help them.

At this point in the screening, the air conditioner inside the screening room had broken so I stepped out of the theatre to not die. When I came back inside the theatre a few minutes later, onscreen I saw two lower-income Mexican women NOT clean the Taylor house, but instead perform an ancient Native American magical right (in Spanish?) to rid the Taylor family of the plague of Anasazi Indian Star Alien Demons. They don’t even consider any other viable options before jumping into that. And guess what? It’s NUTSO! The supernatural beings come out to play in all their CGI glory and cartoon pomp.

The Taylor family is forced to move out of their home and stay in the *GASP* Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, what a tragedy, I really feel for them. So sad. A smidgeon of Christian and magical overtones sprinkled over this faux-family drama does not a great horror story make.  I was cheering that demons might take the violent, autistic child Michael to their planet so the rest of the Taylor family could finally be happy, but this is America, so no – the autistic child is a precious angel who must be protected even though he spies on his sister in a creepy sexual way and sets fire to things. At this point I got up and left, and missed the last 15 minutes. It’s a really good movie go see it everybody.

So enjoy that! I know I did. I give this film five huge stars. Bring your kids, get them really high beforehand, they’ll be scared shitless, maybe even go home and vomit into jars under their bed.



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