The Dark and The Wicked (2020)
Directed by: Brian Bertino
Written by: Brian Bertino
Starring: Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Lynn Andrews, Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Michael Zagst, Tom Nowicki, Xander Berkeley
THE DARK AND THE WICKED (2020)
Written and Directed by Brian Bertino
A Shudder Exclusive
Siblings Michael and Louise return to their parent’s farm to visit their mother who’s looking after their sick father. They can sense their mother is under a lot of stress but they don’t realise how much she’s suffering until it’s too late. Struggling to come to terms with their family’s situation, the siblings grief turns to panic when they begin to witness strange things around the farmstead… things that shouldn’t be real. As the horrors intensify, so does their grip on reality. With a darkness lurking inside the home, they feel the urge to run but they must protect their father at all costs.
THE DARK AND THE WICKED is the latest film from the director of The Strangers but, unlike the unwelcome guests in that particular film, this is a different type of home invasion as the characters take on the supernatural in this psychological horror.
Starring the tremendous Marin Ireland, who I know best from the Amazon series Sneaky Pete, and Michael Abbott Jr., as sister and brother to mother (Julia Oliver-Touchstone) and ailing father (Michael Zagst), THE DARK AND THE WICKED relies heavily on its talented cast members to deliver the emotion required from this screenplay. As a film, not much really happens as the bulk of the plot relies upon the strain put upon the family members and the experiences they have. That’s not to say its devoid of set piece scenes. It has a few key moments in the film which will truly make your eyes widen, and will possibly make you jump out of your seat as it did me, but it’s how it effects those in the household that really matters.
Watching the film with headphones on, for me, is the only way to truly appreciate the outstanding sound work that has gone into this movie. The audio alone was enough to send shivers up my spine but the jump scares and depressingly bleak visuals just keep on suckerpunching you until you have no energy left to fight. The film isn’t afraid to up the ante and punish the characters and viewer more and more, with increasingly shocking and disturbing scenes that appear to be a manifestation of guilt and grief made real. Because of this, THE DARK AND THE WICKED isn’t an enjoyable watch by any stretch of the imagination… it’s an endurance test. If you’re not in a good frame of mind I’d imagine it’d make you feel even worse. I was in a perky mood at the time of watching this film and I felt utterly exhausted and mentally drained by the end of it. Whilst this isn’t pleasant to experience, it means the film certainly does its job of hitting home the horrors suffered and displayed within the movie. However, I would’ve liked the film more if it’d have held some of the gratuitous torture back when involving outside characters. If I’ve perceived the film’s symbolism correctly then it feels unnecessary to drag in other characters outside of the main family. It’s like the film tries to balance the ‘entertainment’ horror aspect and the underlying meaning it’s trying to convey by including these people but the true horror finds its victims with those who feel some sort of darkness or emptiness in their soul.
Nevertheless, THE DARK AND THE WICKED is an unflinching film that will drive you to the edge of sanity. It’s chock full of shocks and isn’t afraid to gut punch you when you least expect it. It’s also a tragic tale, one that so many families can probably relate to, and Ireland and Abbott Jr. convey this so convincingly as siblings returning to their family home through a sense of duty rather than compassion and love.
A gruelling slice of psychological cinema.