Written by: Marcos Efron and Jennifer Derwingson
Directed by: Marcos Efron
Starring: Amber Heard, Odette Yustman, and Karl Urban
Reviewed by: Brett G.
A Perfect Vacation. A Terrifying Nightmare.
Perhaps proof that we are really searching the ends of the earth for remakes and re-imaginings, here comes a redux of And Soon the Darkness. While generally well-regarded, Robert Fuest’s 1970 mystery film wasn’t exactly on the tip of anyone’s tongue as far as remake treatments go. Of course, the horror genre will often use any excuse to get a couple of vacation-bound, bikini-clad girls in peril, which is essentially what this new effort boils down to, and the results are just as generic as the above tagline.
Stephanie (Heard) and Ellie (Yustman) are a couple of American girls vacationing in Argentina. They were a part of a cycling tour before deciding to take off on their own, and they end up in a small town. It offers the usual young adult thrills in the form of a local nightlife scene that’s crawling with shady individuals, including another American, Michael (Urban). Ellie gets smashed and tries to shack up with one of the locals, and receives a hangover for her troubles; this causes the two girls to miss their bus the next day. In an effort to pass the time, they cycle the countryside until they have a spat and get separated. Ellie then disappears without a trace, leaving Stephanie and Michael to search for her.
Bearing little resemblance to its 40 year old predecessor, this feels like another “remake-in-name-only”; the skeleton of the original story is left intact, but the only common thread is that girls go missing in each. Whereas the original built a legitimate, well-wrought mystery with its Hitchcockian suspense and style, this film is a much more straightforward “girls in peril” movie. There’s little real suspense or mystery, especially since we’re allowed a glimpse of Ellie’s captor; the reason for her abduction is the stuff of second-rate thrillers, as is the story’s attempt at any sort of twist or surprise. There’s a hint at an interesting conflict buried in there, but it’s quickly washed away in favor of a standard third-act that feels like it was ripped right out of the screenplay for Taken.
The threadbare plot betrays the film’s decent production values; the photography is nice and makes good use of the film’s exotic locations. The camera also loves the eye candy that’s flaunted before it in the form of the two lead actresses, who also manage to do their best with what the script gives them. Heard is the more reserved and shy of the two, while Yustman is the drunken floozy who grows so annoying that her abduction can’t come quickly enough. Karl Urban has carved out a niche as an action star, but here he’s the requisite male star who manages to drum up just enough charisma to carry his part of the story. It’s not much, but he and Heard at least emerge to be capable leads to see the story through to its predictable conclusion.
As a horror movie, it deals in the usual clichés associated with the horror of foreign locations--being lost in a strange environment with no one to turn to. It doesn’t play up the natural element of distrust as much as it should, but there are a few attempts to highlight the despair of the situation. There’s also a bit of a torture aesthetic thrown in, as we’re treated to some sequences with some captive girls. The amount of graphic torture is minimal, though, and these scenes aren’t any more or less effective than the many others of their ilk. Ultimately, that sums up the film as a whole: there are dozens of other movies like this, and many of them are better. Many of them are far worse as well, but this one just happens to carry a somewhat familiar title in the hopes that it’ll separate itself.
And Soon the Darkness would have been better off trying to forge a more interesting story rather than resorting to such piggy-back shenanigans. Instead, we’re left with something you expect from most direct-to-video releases: a sort of aimless and listless experience that at least has the courtesy of wrapping itself up in a tidy fashion. Anchor Bay is responsible for bringing this bit of Darkness to store shelves (just as they did for the original), and the release is up to their usual standards. The anamorphic transfer is colorful and bright, reflecting the film’s lush photography, and the 5.1 surround track will also envelop your room. Special features include deleted scenes, a director’s diary, and an audio commentary with the director, editor, and cinematographer. There’s also a Blu-ray release available as well. The high-definition will no doubt make the film look prettier, but it won’t elevate it from a weak script and its altogether half-hearted approach towards the material. Rent it!
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