On June 30th via IFC Midnight, we will be able to see on VOD and select theaters “Darkness Rising” a new suspense film that shows that sometimes is better to leave the past behind, specially if you managed to avoid your death, as you might not be so lucky a second time…
In this film we meet Madison, a young woman than convinces her fiancé, Jake and her cousin Izzy to break into the house where she used to lived a long time ago, before it gets demolished. What Madison is trying to do is to find answers as to why many years ago her mother killed Madison’s younger sister, and almost killed her too, in order to finally move on.
At first Jake and Izzy try to be supportive, and they just hang around the house, (that mysteriously looks very clean and neat for a house that is supposed to be abandoned for so many years) but we can see clearly that neither one of them wants to be there, specially because since the moment they stepped in, a very eerie mood was felt in the air. The pair kind of suspects that there might be a lot more than just broken memories in Madison’s head, but they rather keep those thoughts to themselves, until Madison shows them a recorded message from her father. The message, however, instead of providing clues as to what happened the day of the murder, adds more confusion and despair, specially when Madison claims that this is not the message she intended to show them and that someone (or something) has altered her father’s words. To make matters worse, she also shows them some photographs where they can see that the house they just broke into, is very similar to other ones where the owners also committed very bizarre murders.
Madison suddenly begins to have strange visions that at first she just believe to be after effects of the nightmares that she has been suffering recently, but they start providing clues about the murder committed by her mother, and even revealing a bigger darker secret. The real problem however, begins when Madison and her friends realize that there is a strange presence in the house that seems to be very interested in them, and when the group finally decide to run from the house, they find themselves unable to escape, due in part that Shadow, a dog that Madison used to own, (and that also was supposed to be dead for several years) has appeared in front of the house with a clear intention to keep them inside, at the mercy of whatever is hiding in the house.
Ok, the premise of “Darkness Rising” might sound like hundreds of films that deals with haunted houses, but I am glad to say that there are several things that makes this movie to stand out, although you need to be a little bit patient, because while the pacing is not bad, the mystery that the house holds is not revealed in a simple, lineal way, thus we have to be putting the pieces together little by little and in more than one occasion there will be an element that doesn’t seem to fit the equation thrown at us, that will makes rethink what we believe we knew (one would argue that they could be some writer’s last minute random thoughts, but most of them fit in the end). I thought that the concept of the history and what Madison’s house was hiding was very original and manages to provide some very good creepy moments, but as you might guess, there were also several jump scares that although they did not reached annoying levels, did not help the film either.
I liked the characters for the most part, and even when I did not relate to any of them, I could understand why they act the way they do, and their dialogues felt natural and real. The problem for me was when at different times both Madison and Izzy were crying trough their lines and I could not understand very well what they were saying, and I thought I was missing some vital information (Specially in one scene with Izzy’s character).
The movie has good special effects and without going overboard, it delivers on the blood and gore department (no complaints there!) there were a couple of cringe-worthy moments that I liked a lot and the film did not go for the cheap shocks, something I always appreciate. The music was good, and used very well to create a tense atmosphere, but also was used to create (or enforce, if you will) some needless jump scares, that the film could do without.
I won’t go into details regarding the ending, but I will say that I liked it a lot and I think it pays well, even when you get the feeling that some things didn’t quite add up. The story manage to establish (or at least hint) a very interesting mythology that left me wanting to know more about those who are behind the murders at Madison’s house. I don’t know if there is enough material to make a sequel (or prequel, since it is clear that you could go either way due the story’s nature) but I think it would be a nice idea to play with.
The film was directed by Austin Reading and written by Vikram Weet (Devil’s Pass, The Worthy) and the cast consists of Tara Holt (Californication), Brice Johnson (Pretty Little Liars) and Katrina Law (who we can currently see as Nyssa al Ghul in CW’s “Arrow”) … By the way, it is announced that Ted Raimi is in the film, well, yes, he is.. But not a lot.
In conclusion, “Darkness Rising” really tries to bring something new to the table, and is an entertaining film. At times the pacing can feel a little bumpy, but manages to set the pieces for a interesting lore and is worth checking, so try to do so when it get released on VOD and select theaters via IFC Midnight on June 30th.