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Dimension Films presents

Darkness (2002)

"Since when are you afraid of the dark?"- Regina (Anna Paquin)

Stars: Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen
Other Stars: Giancarlo Giannini, Fele Martinez, Fermi Reixach, Stephan Enquist
Director: Jaume Balaguero

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (disturbing images, intense terror sequences, thematic elements and language)
Run Time: 01h:42m:10s
Release Date: 2005-04-26
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

It's become a common practice for studios to shelve finished films that they deem to be garbage and therefore not successful before they even have the chance to be. Usually, when those projects do eventually see the light of day, they receive direct-to-video releases. Still, on the rarest of occasions, shelved movies do finally make their debut in theaters, with the recent Hero and Darkness among them. While Hero became a surprise box office smash, Darkness pretty much came and went from theaters in late 2004/early 2005.

I saw Darkness for the first time on an import DVD back in late-2002, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Two years later, I heard of its US theatrical release and was shocked that it was even going to theaters. The film is nearly star-less (although Anna Paquin is a popular young actress), but the producers must have seen dollar signs, what with the horror boom in the last couple of years.

Darkness stars the aforementioned Anna Paquin (The Piano, X-Men) as Regina, who has moved into a new house with her younger brother, and her parents, played by Lena Olin (Alias) and Iain Glen. Flickering lights and a few strange noises later, and it soon becomes evident that this family isn't alone in their new abode. Regina starts seeing ghosts and her father begins acting very strange, almost maniacal, but there are many more layers to the story that unfold throughout the course of the film, with the finale being very shocking and satisfying.

Sure, all of the above plot points sound like a thousand other scary movie conventions, from the haunted house to the crazy father cooped up in a relatively secluded house (The Shining, anyone?). However, Darkness takes those conventions and integrates them into the story in a way that the film is able to seem original, despite them.

Where Darkness falters, and perhaps the reason it was shelved for so long, is its snail's pacing. From the outset, the story creeps along, spending far too much time on Regina's life outside of the house, and with her boyfriend. Things are also slowed by director Jaume Balaguero's insistence on establishing a feeling of dread with his overly long, overly stylized interior shots of a near pitch black room. Again, there's nothing wrong with creating such a mood for this type of film, but there's a fine line between effectively creepy, dark sequences, and shots that render the images in that shot pointless due to the excessive "darkness."

Anna Paquin doesn't get much of an opportunity to showcase her amazing acting chops, as her job is mainly to stand around an look scared, and veteran Lena Olin doesn't stray far from that formula. Iain Glen, however, refrains from hamming it up playing the disturbed father of the family, and gives a solid performance.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Naturally, Darkness is full of dimly lit, nearly pitch black sequences, that, fortunately, are well rendered in this anamorphic 2.40:1 widescreen presentation. This could have been a very tricky transfer, but the nice blacks and shadow levels enable all of the images to be as detailed as possible, even during the intentionally, yet excessively dark scenes. Sharpness is solid as well, with the limited color scheme featuring natural fleshtones and some truly bright reds. There aren't any print flaws, but the occasional grain does appear from time to time.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is nice, yet could have been more active, especially in a horror film like this that relies on sound as a scare mechanism. The surrounds are used quite a bit, but don't envelop the viewer with creepy noises like the occasional footsteps in the rear speakers, or something that would truly add to the overall scare factor. Dialogue is never a problem, with each actor's speech coming across clearly at all times.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sin City, Cursed
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Aside from the theatrical and teaser trailers for Darkness, and previews for other Dimension Films releases, the only other extra is the brief featurette titled Darkness Illuminated: Behind the Scenes of Darkness. This is a basic EPK piece, complete with cast and crew interviews and clips from the film.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

Darkness is a by-the-numbers horror film that is still a worthwhile rental and should find a much larger audience now that it's on DVD. The solid audio and video presentations are a definite plus, but there aren't many extras aside from some trailers and a very short featurette.

Chuck Aliaga 2005-04-21