horror, suspense, drama
Director: David F. Sandberg
Writers: Eris Heisserer and David F. Sandberg (based on his short film)
Main Cast: Teresa Palmer as Rebecca, Gabriel Bateman as Martin, Maria Bello as Sophie, Alicia Vela-Bailey as Diana and Alexander DiPersia as Bret
After the death of Martin's father, his mother begins to lose her mind and hallucinate a being hiding in the shadows who isn't actually there... or is she? After Martin has a few frightening experiences and many sleepless nights, he reaches out to his older sister in hopes that she can help save their family.
First of all, I think it’s important for me to mention this before I delve into my review: I did, in fact, really enjoy this movie and I think it stands up well to the original short that was released in 2013. If you have not yet viewed the short, please make sure you do. There is a throwback to the original almost immediately and you will know what I mean when you see it. Now, going into this film I had extremely low expectations. For one, it’s a summer movie flick -- not often do they hold up very well. Shockingly enough we are three for three so far with this movie, along with The Shallows and The Purge: Election Year. Secondly, due to the success of the short film and how downright unsettling it was for me to watch, I was concerned that this film would not be able to capture that same feeling. The concept seemed so basic and simple that I wasn’t sure how exactly an idea like that could be stretched out into a full-length movie without taking away from what had made the short so successful. Congratulations to the director and writers, because they did it!
One scene in particular that I really enjoyed was at the very beginning of the film, where we see a man talking to his son via Skype after-hours at his place of employment. His secretary asks if she can be excused seeing as it’s time to go home, and he allows it. She does a bit of tidying up in the warehouse space before heading out, and within this space there are three overhead lights causing circles of light on the ground; the rest is complete darkness. Now, the set-up for this was absolutely amazing, because from what we already know by watching the short, this creature can only be seen and exist within the darkness. As soon as I saw this set-up, it caused an extreme unsettling feeling of fear for what was to come, which got me beyond excited for what this film had in store. I won’t go so far as to spoil what does happen in this scene, but I will tell you that you see the same shadowy figure from the short -- and when you do it is just as effective as it was when I watched the original. During most opening scenes like these it sort of sets up for what kind of movie we have in store for us, and with this opening scene I was absolutely thrilled. The rest of the movie definitely lived up to the expectations set by this beginning.
One thing that I absolutely applaud this movie for is that they were able to still frighten the audience during the daytime. Seeing that the main point of this film is to cause a fear of the dark and to give you a sense of security and safety in the light, when they were able to hold the fear and tension from daylight to dusk was amazing. This means there were no dry points throughout the film that would take away from the tension that was built up during the night. Now, this caught me totally off-guard, and when the first scary ‘day time’ moment happened it really freaked me out because I wasn’t expecting it. I was sucked into a false sense of security, and they didn’t stick to the common clichés that I am so used to seeing in horror films at the theatre.
That wasn’t the only thing in the film that took a left turn from the common convention. There were several moments -- especially near the end where I thought I had the whole thing figured out but was proven to be incorrect. At one point they set it up so you assume (because it seemed very obvious) that a certain character was about to die, and I turned to Bloody Brodie and said “well, good-bye to ____, cause they’re not making it.” Just when I thought it was about to happen, it didn’t. It was later set up to happen again (in what, once again, seemed obvious) but nope, nothing. This alone kept me on the edge of my seat, and I was starting to get frustrated and just wanting them to die. It was actually kind of funny and caught me really off-guard. At one point the entire audience gasped and was like “Oh my God, no!” but it still didn’t happen. It was quite a suspenseful scene, with an underlying sense of humour.
Now, this film did contain some dark subject matter dealing with a very seriously mental illness: depression. The metaphors throughout this film and the message behind it was truly thought-provoking -- how once you let the darkness in it has the potential to consume you. You have to do everything in your power to fight it and not let it take over. Since this movie so blatantly throws that in the audience's face, I don’t think it should have ended the way that it did. It totally gives the audience the wrong message and makes you think that it isn’t possible to overcome this once it goes far enough. That is entirely wrong and actually really upset me. Seeing as I am someone who suffers and has suffered greatly from this mental illness, I don’t think that this movie sends across a very good message because it is possible to recover and you will get better. Never give up! With that being said, I do want to remind anyone who watches this film that it is just a movie. Do not compare the subject matter to anything that you are dealing with, because I don’t think that the message that this film gives was intended. I do want to say one last thing in regards to the ending though: I don’t think it was possible for it to end any other way without hurting the quality of the movie, but perhaps they shouldn’t have drilled that metaphor so strongly into the viewer's head.
That being said, for the most part this film was really enjoyable. The audience screamed several times at (for once) warranted jump-scares that did not include loud, obnoxious music and were actually necessary to have within the film. (Editor’s note: Channy Dreadful and I, Mr. Universe, disagree on the uses and necessities of jump-scares in certain forms, and in this instance she agreed with me. I guess that means I win.) The backstory of Diana, the shadowy figure, was actually interesting and thankfully wasn’t the main focus of the film (I was a little worried about that, to be honest) and you don’t see so much of her that you are left with a sour taste in your mouth (e.g. Andres Muschietti’s Mama.) Just like the short, you mostly only see the shadowy figure, which definitely works to the movie’s advantage. The acting wasn’t top-notch, but for the most part they did a decent job. In all reality, there is not a lot to complain about. This movie was equally as effective as the short, and even though one aspect of the ending didn’t sit well with me, I’ll probably be a little uneasy when I have to turn the lights off to go to bed tonight. I rate this movie a 7/10 and to be honest, maybe go check this one out in the theatre.