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MOVIE REVIEW

Notice to 'Darkness' family: Just move out

An isolated old house, things that go bump in the night -- but the chills and thrills are too routine to scream at.

December 27, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Jaume Balaguero's "Darkness" is yet another horror picture in which a typical-appearing family, seeking peace and tranquillity in the countryside, moves into the gloomiest, most remote old house it can find, and then, when things start going bump in the night and worse, it doesn't move out no matter what.

An English-language production made in Spain with an international cast, this Dimension presentation is trite and flat, despite the efforts of such well-known actors as Anna Paquin, Lena Olin and Giancarlo Giannini. Dimension's promotional tag for "Darkness" is: "Some secrets should never come to light." Well, some movies should never come to light, either, and "Darkness," bearing a 2002 copyright, might well have been better left on the shelf.

Maria (Olin) and Mark (Iain Glen) and their children, Regina (Paquin) and Paul (Stephan Enquist), have settled into a large turn-of-the-last century house in a vaguely American Colonial Revival style -- not the kind of structure one would expect to find about 10 miles from Barcelona.

Mark was born in Spain, but when he was a child, his mother took him to America after divorcing his father, Albert (Giannini), a doctor attached to a Barcelona hospital where Maria finds work as a nurse.

Apparently, the family has left the U.S. seeking quieter surroundings for Mark, who has suffered from Huntington's disease but is apparently in remission.

The family has barely moved in when the electrical outages become daily occurrences for which an electrician can offer no explanation.

Then Mark becomes flooded with terrifying childhood memories, and Paul is plagued by the menacing ghosts of children about his age.

Naturally, the house turns out to hold terrifying secrets of an unspeakable evil.

Things get worse for the family, but so does the picture, which is too mechanical to be either persuasive or scary.

As Mark commences to crumble and Maria goes into seeming indifference or denial, Regina tries to hold the family together, especially protecting her little brother Paul and digging into the history and mystery of the sinister house with the help of her new boyfriend Carlos (Fele Martinez).

Not helping matters is that after putting audiences through the most routine of thrills and chills, which no amount of dynamic editing can enliven, the relentlessly murky "Darkness" opts for a limp, open ending.

*

'Darkness'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for disturbing images, intense terror sequences, thematic elements and language.

Times guidelines: Too menacing for children.

Anna Paquin...Regina

Lena Olin...Maria

Iain Glen...Mark

Giancarlo Giannini...Albert

Fele Martinez...Carlos

A Dimension Films release of a Filmax International presentation of a Julio Fernandez/Brian Yuzna production for Fantastic Factory. Director Juame Balaguero. Producers Fernandez, Yuzna. Executive producers Julio Fernandez, Carlos Fernandez. Screenplay by Balaguero, Fernando de Felipe. Cinematographer Xavi Gimenez. Editor Luis de la Madrid. Music Carles Cases. Costumes Eva Arretxe. Production designer Llorenc Miguel. Set decorator Deborah Chambers. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

In general release.

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