And Soon the Dulln -- uh, Darkness: Film Review

Directed by: Marcos Efron, Runtime: 91 minutes
Grade: C-

Marcos Efron's And Soon the Darkness remakes a '70s thriller of the same name, a calculated slow-burn that uses its surroundings and performances to create closed-in tension in an "exotic" locale. Efron nails those attributes down with his take; he transplants the setting from France to the lush Argentinean landscape filled with flourishing greenery and sun-bathed roads, while finding appealing it-actresses in Amber Heard and Odette Yustman to frolic in bikinis and ride their bikes as classic tourist-chick types. What he neglects is the burn to his slow-burn, leaving this drawn-out thriller -- more interested in its picturesque photography and catching femme focuses -- to blandly pedal through an egregious amount of tongue-tied build-up towards its mundane disappearance jolts.

The two girls are cutouts from just about any female-driven horror flick, with Ellie (Yustman) as the saucy man-bedding harlot without abandon and Stephanie (Heard) as her responsibly buttoned-up counterpart. While backpacking through Argentina, they stumble onto a little layover village where they decide to stay the night (hey, there's Adriana Barraza!) until an important bus ride to the airport leaves the next day. After an evening of drinks, flirtation with locals, and a guy's attempt to force himself on Ellie, broken up by a mysterious English-speaking stranger (Karl Urban), the two venture out the next day for some sunbathing and sight-seeing. Lo and behold, Ellie vanishes just as Stephanie leaves her bikini-clad side for just a while, sparking a search to find her through the uncooperative, eerie village -- which seems to have a history of disappearing girls.

Efron aims for the "immersive" thriller tone for And Soon the Darkness, gruffly and methodically leading us through the hunt for Ellie similar to how a girl like Stephanie would endure in a real-life scenario. Taking inspiration from Robert Fuest's original film and dropping it in a modern climate like this, one where recent abduction cases have been highly-publicized, could potentially be a recipe for penetrating dramatic suspense burrowed inside effective horror. For this to work, though, there's got to be some connection with the stranded tourists, and Efron's film botches that aspect. When Ellie flaunts her barely-clothed self in front of locales the night before, spouting "El peepee!" when Stephanie asks where she's going at point, it stretches into woefully grating character build-up that earns little concern for some rather dimwitted victims.

A tedious focus on its characters makes the top half of And Soon the Darkness an uninvolving and suspense-free trudge while approaching "the darkness", trading flippant Ellie-isms with Amber Heard's better-than-it-deserved handling of Stephanie's ill-defined dryness. Just to be clear, there's a whole lot of attractiveness going on in Efron's film; the two lead actresses skimpily saunter around the Argentinean landscape, which Princess Kaiulani's Gabriel Beristain exquisitely photographs. The rolling mountains, high-texture abodes, and dusty roads boast a level of fertile composition unbefitting the rickety framework that it's draped over, evoking a desire to travel to that secluded location instead of the fear that the story should be generating around the village's eerie corners. Beauty, in essence, overshadows the uninvolving vein of suspense, lulling one into picturesque boredom instead of fidget-worthy tension.

When And Soon the Darkness eventually does kick into gear, seeping into that done-to-death high-contrast visual style, it offers mechanical twists and turns that aren't gripping enough to justify the blandly formulaic -- albeit nice-looking -- path taken to get there. Karl Urban and Adriana Barraza, two incontestable talents, go underused in a pair of wishy-washy filler roles, while the townsfolk and local police shiftily lead Stephanie on a wild goose chase that creaks with every predictable step she takes. Even when the material does begin to take its darker turns, there's a lingering feeling of obtuseness over how exactly it reaches that point, and how Efron and his writing crew try so hard to be edgy with the film's mysterious vagueness that it forgets to intrigue on a base level. But at least we've got skin and sunshine, right?

For the full Blu-ray/DVD review, head over to [Click Here]


Post a Comment

Thoughts? Love to hear 'em -- if they're kept clean and civil.