Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glenn, Giancarlo Giannini, Fele Martinez, Fermi Reixach, Stephan Enquist
Written by: Jaume Balagueró, Fernando de Felipe
Directed by: Jaume Balagueró
MPAA Rating: R for terror/violence and language/Unrated
Running Time: 102
Date: 12/25/2004

Darkness (2004)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

House Trap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Miramax/Dimension kept Jaume Balaguero's horror film Darkness on the shelf for two years before releasing it on Christmas Day with no press screenings, opening it among Oscar contenders like Million Dollar Baby. The few critics who bothered to check it out predictably panned it, but it deserves reconsideration. Shot in stunning widescreen, Darkness does stumble through a couple of brain-dead plot impediments, but it makes up for quite a bit with its overwhelmingly chilling mood. It opens with a flashback, letting us know that something horrible happened 40 years earlier.

In the present, an American family moves into a remote Italian home, just in time for events to repeat themselves. Balaguero does a wonderful job of keeping the murky plot details just out of reach long enough to develop an edginess. Unfortunately, it's not hard to figure out the big secret, and the movie lazily relies on things like lunar eclipses to explain. Lena Olin and Anna Paquin turn in solid performances as the mother and daughter, even if none of the characters actually listen to one another. If they did, everyone would have evacuated the house before anything bad could happen. Despite all this, Darkness is a good case of style over substance and it gave me a memorable, scary evening.

Dimension's DVD release unveils the unrated cut, running 102 minutes. Extras include a useless "behind-the-scenes" featurette and two trailers. The film is mastered in 2.40:1 widescreen and includes a 5.1 English language track or an optional French language track as well as optional English and Spanish subtitles. Dimension has also released an earlier film from Jaume Balagueró, the Spanish-language The Nameless.{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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