Adèle (Maria Bello) and daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) are a troubled duo. Adèle and her husband, James (Sean bean), are separated and Sophie isn’t coping well with Adèle’s new carefree, single life. This, unfortunately, leads up to Sarah attempting to commit suicide. Luckily, the attempt was just that and both decide to head out to James’ new home in the Wales countryside where Sarah will be staying for a period. There, they meet the handyman Dafydd (Maurice Roëves) and his sheep herding dog, Elvis.
During a trip to the cliffs to study a pillar, Dafydd tells Adèle the story of the small religious sect that lived in the area 60 years earlier lead by a minister named Rowan (Richard Elfyn), sometimes referred to as The Shepherd. After a tragic accident, his daughter, Ebrill (Abigail Stone) dies. Wrought with grief the minister convinces his entire congregation that jumping off the cliffs to their death will secure their salvation. Of course, in reality, the minister believes in the legend of Annwyn, the Celtic land of the dead, and the old saying, “One of the living for one of the dead.” He figures that the afterlife will have no choice but to give his daughter back in exchange for all of the souls of his sacrificed flock. Good guess. Ebrill does return to the land of the living but she’s brought something back with her something from The Dark. An evil that strikes down the local sheep with insanity and disease.
There’s only one way to rid Ebrill of this darkness and that is to drag the screaming little girl to the abbatoir, a barn in which animals were slaughtered, and administer trepanation. What is trepanation, you ask? Well, it involves drilling holes in the skull with a large hand cranked drill. Yes, it’s gotta be painful.
Anyhow, while Dafydd relays the story to Adèle, Sarah turns up missing. There’s no evidence of her anywhere aside from a lone shoe floating in the water. A desperate search by local police and James turn up nothing. A child does rise from the water though. Annwyn has traded one of its dead for one of the living. Ebrill has returned to her home and she has no plans to leave anytime soon. It’s up to Adèle to find her child and bring Sarah back to the land of the living.
The Dark seems to have been heavily influenced by Asian horror while also mixing in a bit of historically inaccurate Celtic lore. The visuals, scares and Annwyn sequences are all stylish and moody. Combined with some of the most beautiful landscapes shots I’ve seen in a film in years, The Dark is a lush and atmospheric horror film.
While I would have preferred a bit more tension, The Dark does occasionally deliver on the chills in some places. My skin literally crawled when I watched The Shepherd administer trepanation to Ebrill. You hear the bone crunching, the flesh tearing and the hand cranked drill turning. Very agonizing stuff. The characters were all distinct enough though I found myself caring very little for Sarah and her return. She was a snotty, foul mouthed pre-teen and were she my child she would have caught a two fingered pimp slap to the lower lip.
For those of you out there slamming your head into your beer can trying to remember who Sean Bean is, fear not, he is none other than Boromir from Lord of the Rings trilogy! No excitement, eh? Well, he’ll also be featured prominently in the upcoming Silent Hill as well.
While The Dark didn’t have me turning on the lights in the house, it was still a solid ghost story. This release even offers up an alternate ending which I found a bit more interesting than the one they actually ended up with. Other than that, there’s not much in the way of extras. C’mon Sony get with it!
Here’s a small shocker, this film was produced by none other than Paul W.S. Anderson himself! While some of you are probably groaning right now, you’d do well to remember this was the man behind Event Horizon. Fans of Asian horror and ghost stories will definitely find The Dark an interesting, worthwhile film.