On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying. His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the family.
With so many titles coming my way, it takes alot to surprise me. I am happy to say that the movie, “The Dark and the Wicked” was the surprise I have been truly waiting for. Moody, unnerving, odd, and unresolving are a few of the classifications I would use to describe this dark psychological terror platform. “The Dark and the Wicked” is indeed a scary masterpiece created for true horror lovers seeking more traditional presentations. It is a film laced in dread and anticipation served starkingly cold. A movie that inspires from past films that have left residual effects, not only your psyche, but from that of pure darkness.
Now I do have to say in advance that those who are more comfortable Hollywood formula movies, probably will walk away with a range of unresolved issues they can’t let go of. This film is not intended to be a formula-based concoction that you grabs a few “Blum house style” jump scares before letting you go, it has an intended effect that doesn’t paint by simple numbers. The holes that you perceive are not holes at all but rather hinted at without being overly blatant. What is truly at stake here is that evil is not predictable. It picks and chooses its victims based on their level of faith. Once it digs in, it doesn’t let go. I believe that this was the intention and grand plan set forth by director/writer Bryan Bertino.
Bryan Bertino’s style reminded me of the direction new directors such as: Ari Aster and Natalie Erika James have taken as of late. It’s a style that has a deep-seated intention of painting the canvas black while echoing a call from the more scarier releases of the 1970’s. The experience is not unlike the jarring effect invoked from films such as “Burnt Offerings”, “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” and “‘The Sentinel”.
In watching the extras, it was mentioned that Bertino was stated as saying that he wanted viewers to know that there was “blood in the water” as they traverse the story line. It is worth remembering that as the film transpires.
The movie takes place in a small farm setting. The location and story are simply presented providing impact by way of introducing subtle (and not so subtle) occurrences throughout. We often use the word “creepy” to describe horror films as an adjective description, but in the case of the “The Dark and the Wicked” , the term creepy is truly defined. The movie evolves over a slow grind drama injecting elements of terror along the way. This is supported way of a rather gothically drone mono tonal score that fits the setting perfectly
Marin Ireland stars as Louise, a distant daughter who has come back reluctantly to her family in time of need. Her father (Michael Zags) is on his deathbed while her mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) has been alone tasked with taking care of him. The emotional strain has worn her mother thin, while others have noticed a mental degradation resulting from the strain. Michael Abbott Jr. plays Louise’s brother who has also arrived to assist the family after a long estranged period away from them.
In short, we are led to believe that we are experiencing a sad time for the family as father slowly slips away. However, what is at root here is that evil has been invited in unwillingly and as a consequence (of something past). The farm becomes home to this influence beginning with a series of hallucinations and extremely dark waking nightmares. This trend continues. The result of something past has come collecting.
Acting throughout The Dark and the Wicked is well executed against this peculiar gothic tale. All the elements that we’d expect from this style come together nicely making for a well rounded film that succeeds in its purpose.
“The Dark and the Wicked” takes the award, in my perspective, as a true modern horror classic earning it the prestigious placement of on one of 2020’s scariest releases. I’m hoping that I come across more like this as it was quite refreshing against the wave of theatre (home theatre, these days) releases that stick within the safe construct of predictable seque-drama-terror-resolution style of film making. Bryan Bertino is one to watch for as a visionary who understands the true elements of dread.