A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Dark and the Wicked is a well-made, scary horror movie about adult siblings (Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr.) who return home to be with their dying father but find that some kind of evil force is taking over. It has lots of blood and gore, with deaths, blood sprays, pools of blood, characters taking their own lives, slicing, stabbing, and shooting, a field full of dead goats, fingers chopped off, and various additional nightmarish imagery. A naked elderly female ghost is seen, partly obscured by shadow, but with breasts visible. Language includes a few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," etc. A main character smokes cigarettes, and two characters drink beer with and after dinner.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE DARK AND THE WICKED, Louise (Marin Ireland) and her brother Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) return home to their Texas family ranch, where their father is dying. Their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) greets them coldly, saying, "You shouldn't have come." That night, she chops off her own fingers and hangs herself in the barn. Over the course of a week, more and more strange and terrifying things start to happen. Then a young girl appears at the door and asks Louise, "Do you smell him? He's getting close." Is there a malevolent force amassing, and if so, can it be stopped?
Is it any good?
Essentially a haunted house movie, this foreboding, scary flick relies on a few old horror tricks but somehow freshens them up with its strong, vivid characters and its dark sense of the unknown. Writer-director Bryan Bertino, who's best known for his gory, brutal home invasion movie The Strangers, takes a step back into something more classical with The Dark and the Wicked. With potent sound design and use of music, he makes an old farmhouse and its accompanying barn into places of terror. A homemade alarm system consisting of empty bottles and bits of metal dangling from strings becomes more of an attack than a warning.
Bertino uses many jump scares and artificial shocks, but within this atmosphere, they're genuinely chilling. Some scenes are laden with visual effects, but others, such as a simple phone call, can likewise make your skin crawl. Ireland and Abbott Jr. are very strong in their roles, arguing about what to do and wanting to get out of the house but unable to leave their dying father. (A nurse asserts that a person dying alone is the worst thing that can happen.) The siblings' dynamic, full of regret and weariness, feels authentic. But perhaps the best thing about The Dark and the Wicked is that it understands how the scariest stuff in the world is the unknown, and it uses that effectively, right up to the final moment.
Talk to your kids about ...
How scary is the movie? Why do people sometimes like to watch horror movies?
Do you agree that people dying alone is the worst thing that could happen? Why, or why not?
When the priest character talks about "your truth," what does he mean?
What do you think the evil force was, and why did it come for this family?
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