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Time Out saysJaume Balagueró’s impressive debut horror movie, ‘Los Sin Nombre’ (‘The Nameless’), hinted at great things to come. ‘Darkness’, the Catalan director’s follow-up English-language movie, fails to deliver on that promise. Premiered in Spain in 2002, it was shelved by co-producer Miramax for two years, then dumped unannounced into US cinemas last Christmas. To add insult to injury, it was also pre-censored by the producers to secure a PG-13 rating, resulting in some choppy editing and crudely re-recorded swear words. Disappointing and confusing at 102 minutes, it’s even more incoherent with four minutes missing.
For all its stylishly Stygian interiors, Balagueró’s haunted-house movie suffers from uneven acting, non-idiomatic dialogue and muddled storytelling. Anna Paquin is out of her depth as Regina, teenage daughter of a violent, unhinged father (Iain Glen) and a chronically passive mother (Lena Olin). Neither parent can cope when her younger brother, Paul (Stephan Enquist), claims he is being haunted and abused by the ghosts of six dead children. With the help of her internet-savvy Spanish boyfriend Carlos (Fele Martinez), the resourceful Regina discovers that the new family home was used for an aborted occult ceremony 40 years earlier. An imminent lunar eclipse means the time is once more ripe for ritual slaughter.
Shadowy malevolence pervades the house, where the unravelling family is not so much living as incarcerated. Jittery images of ghostly children generate a degree of threat, but the contrived plot twists try one’s patience. So even as the darkness closes in, there is never any real sense of dread. The slow-burning terror soon fizzles out, as does the damp squib of an ending.
Fri Mar 18 2005