Losing a child is one of the heaviest of heavy things that can happen to anyone, but the acting is of such mediocrity in The Dark (2005) that the panicked then griefstricken parents scarcely register as emotional.
Maria Bello is the mom, & Sean Bean is the dad who is so much slower to believe in the Welsh "otherworld" where their daughter Sarah (Sophie Stucky) is trapped.
Set on a coastal farm in Wales, the cinematography, like the acting, is too bland to be arresting, despite the potential of the countryside.
The central image is a stone monolith that dates to the 1950s (that's right, the 1950s) commemorating (commemorating???) a suicide cult. This stone pillar is not the least bit interesting & a strange choice for the main visual image, given the beauty that might have been captured of the actual countryside where ancient monoliths exist.
The story is extremely busy with potentially interesting weird shit going on but it comes at the viewer like a slow parade of museum pieces & never creates a credible holistic atmosphere. The 1950s monolith with Welsh writing on it & its stolen plaque add up to nothing.
The Gothic Romance cliffs where the suicide cult leapt seemingly had no effect, though a single drowning fifty years later did have the required effect.
The sheep that sicken & die without cause or which leap from the cliffs in emulation of the suicide cult is a curiosity that gets lost in the welter of attempted novelty.
The ghost-girl is in the sea or in the attic or in the nearby slaughterhouse or in the woods. The slaughterhouse served as a temple for the 1950s pagan cult.
The mysterious manifestation of the creepy little girl (Abigail Stone) who had been dead for fifty years, & whose head had been trepanned, is thrown into the mix like one for toss-off when it might've provided a startling mysteriousness if the script hadn't wanted to meander elsewhere right away. The alternate dimension where mom wanders in search of her child gets downright baroque.
The mythic regulation of trading one life for another in the land of the dead doesn't seem actually to apply. The impaling of the lone survivor of the original suicide cult is pointlessly seedy & without emotional content. The box of keys found in the attic is never used for anything.
The one key that keeps reappearing in different places & contexts is finally used, to open an ordinary door. "The Shepherd" in the other dimension was once the cult leader or maybe he's a death-god, who knows & who cares.
Busy, busy, busy.
Aside from a few successful "boo!" moments done with fast cuts & loud music instead of with acting or any of the busy-busy events, the scariest thing turns out to be the sheep. And they ain't so much scary as they are laughable. Now if there had been one big angry territorial ram, that might've been a worrisome bastard, but a flock of sheep in need of a bath just ain't that frightening.
The construction of the tale is like something by an amateur novelist who is not developing a story rationally from a strange notion that leads inexorably to the next strange thing, but keeps trumping up random unrelated notions one after another. Nothing comes together in a cohesive manner.
And though new things keep happening, somehow they are all far too obvious, like there was any ever doubt the kid was going to fall in the water in the first place or that someone would go off the cliff or the attic of the house is scary.
Every time the story becomes too boring due to weak acting, weak dialogue, unconvincing event, monotonous photography, it's like the writer or director asked, "What wacky supernatural thing can I toss in to spice this scene up?" instead of repairing what was actually weak.
By having a haunted cliff with monolith, a haunted house, a haunted slaughterhouse, a haunted sea, plus another dimension, the film lacks focus, without which there is scant continuity & no suspense. I half expected mom & dad to go to town in a haunted automobile & shop at the haunted grocery store then get lost in a haunted belltower & for a climax fall down the hole of a haunted outhouse which is better than The Dark deserves.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl