THE DARKNESS (2021)
Written and Directed by Thaurun Mohan
Author Lisa and husband David decide to spend some time at David’s grandmother’s old cottage in Ireland. Struggling to find inspiration to pen her next novel, Lisa roots around the attic to find out about the history of the cottage and comes across a diary belonging to a former inhabitant, Niav. Reading about Niav’s life intrigues Lisa but the deeper she delves into Niav’s experiences, the more she begins to lose herself as a century-old darkness takes hold…
THE DARKNESS blends modern with period as two worlds collide at a sleepy village in Ireland in this folk horror chiller by writer and director Tharun Mohan.
The Haunting of Bly Manor actress, Amelia Eve, stars as Lisa, whilst Cyril Blake makes his debut feature film performance as her perpetually cheery husband, David. Both characters are looking to crack on with their day jobs whilst enjoying the rural retreat but being stuck in the middle of nowhere with a poor signal means contact with the outside world isn’t the easiest. Not that it bothers Lisa and David too much. The loved-up pair certainly take advantage of the break away but when Lisa starts acting strange and seeing shapes outside the property, David begins to grow concerned for his wife. Her obsession with an old journal intensifies and it isn’t long before villagers start to share stories about the property his grandmother has left to him. What is the secret of the cottage and what happened to its former inhabitants?
Splicing modern day Lisa and David with flashbacks of Niav and husband Brian works well as we get to know the character of Niav who’s tale Lisa has become infatuated with. These scenes are quite ethereal at times, and makes for a fine contrast between the two different periods a century apart. Katherine Hartshorne plays orphan Niav with such optimism and innocence whilst Adam Bond’s Brian plays her husband as the strong, silent type. The snippets of the diary read throughout the film help to push their story along and as Lisa becomes more obsessed and troubled, the intensity of Niav’s story increases. The blend of the two ‘worlds’ works rather well as each story stand alone isn’t enough to keep the interest, but together gives an intrigue and mystery of what happened in the past and how it’s affected the present.
It’s quite easy to get involved in the film’s storyline, despite there being a mixed bag of performances in regards to quality. A bit of humour here and there lightens the mood of Lisa and David’s stay in Ireland whilst a creepy old priest called George, played by John Sugden, adds a quirkiness and threatening menace (when he’s not slurping someone else’s coffee or eating all their cake slices, that is). It’s not a frightening film, but it has chilling elements thanks to the story toying with witchcraft, folk rituals, revenge, the connection between life and death, and the possibilities of resurrection. There’s lots going on and it tries to touch on all this within its running time, which it manages to do adequately even if it doesn’t go into full detail.
THE DARKNESS is committed to delivering a story but some of the production, dialogue and character development hold it back from achieving its full potential. It often feels like a light version of what it wants to be and doesn’t wholeheartedly commit, like a boxer pulling its punches. There’s definitely flourishes of an interesting plot embedded within but the whole package is a bit underwhelming, particularly when the folk horror angle opens up so much opportunity. Despite its engaging plot ideas, the execution just lacks the impact needed to effectively convey it.