The Dark

The Dark


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Desperately trying to save her marriage, Adelle (Maria Bello), an American, takes her daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) to see her English father James (Sean Bean) at his new home, a remote farmhouse on the Welsh coast.

Immediately upon arrival, she finds herself plagued by nightmare visions of Sarah drowning. At first these seem nothing more than a reflection of the guilt stemming from that moment when she lashed out at Sarah in a moment of anger. But when the girl vanishes a few days later - presumably swept into the sea and drowned - and another girl of similar age and appearance, Ebril (Abigail Stone), mysteriously appears, a different possibility emerges.

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The previous occupant of the farmhouse some half-century ago was the leader of a religious sect whose practices combined hard line Christianity and ancient Welsh mythology. After the death of his daughter, he convinced his flock to commit mass suicide, believing that their sacrifice would cause her to be returned to him from Annwm, the land of the dead beneath the waves.

Adelle becomes convinced that, against all odds, Sarah is still alive, trapped in the netherworld, waiting to be rescued...

Directed by John Fawcett, of Ginger Snaps fame, The Dark is a frustrating film. It is intelligently directed and delivers the shocks and atmosphere required, without descending to the depths of nastiness for its own sake.

Unfortunately, it also becomes clear that the filmmakers have bitten off more than they can chew - the early scenes recall Don't Look Now. As if acknowledging that this comparison would always be to The Dark's detriment, Fawcett moves into to something more akin to J-Horror territory - the water imagery, the strange evil child, etc - before throwing in elements of Hellraiser and A Nightmare On Elm Street - the parallel universe of Annwm, complete with its own bogeyman in the form of the depraved preacher - and ultimately coming to resemble nothing so much as Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and The House By The Cemetery.

As a result, it's little surprise that The Dark is stronger in terms of visuals and ideas than coherent narrative. What is a shock, however, is to learn that it is actually based on a novel, Sheep, by Simon Maginn and adapted for the screen by Stephen Massicotte. The consequence, however, is that much of the more intimate and interesting material is lost in a tale of sound and fury that, if not quite signifying nothing, nevertheless comes perilously close to drowning out fine performances from Bean and Bello, the former alternating between rugged macho hero and sensitive artist and the latter making for a credibly flawed protagonist.

Reviewed on: 26 Aug 2005
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The Dark packshot
A Welsh ghost story with watery connections.
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Director: John Fawcett

Writer: Stephen Massicotte, Paul Tamasy, based on Sheep by Simon Maginn

Starring: Maria Bello, Sean Bean, Sophie Stuckey, Maurice Roeves, Abigail Stone, Richard Elfyn

Year: 2005

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 2005

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