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 Darkness is a horror movie about Native American ghosts that haunt a Caucasian autistic boy and his family, a cultural dynamic that may not sit well with all viewers. There are plenty of jump scares, as well as some blood. A room is covered with red-smeared designs on the walls and ceiling (presumably blood, but that's not certain). Family members argue, and a wall catches on fire. A married couple kisses in bed, a teen girl is shown taking a shower (no sensitive nudity), and there's flirting and talk of a husband's past infidelity. A woman's alcoholism is discussed; she buys vodka, and the bottles are shown half empty, but viewers never see her (or anyone else) actually drinking. Language includes a use of "f--k" and a couple of uses of "s--t."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
During a camping trip with family friends, autistic boy Mike (David Mazouz) falls into a strange chamber and finds five stones carved with images of a buffalo, snake, wolf, coyote, and crow. Back home, with his mom, Bronny (Radha Mitchell); dad, Peter (Kevin Bacon); and older sister, Stephanie (Lucy Fry), strange things begin happening. Mike starts talking to an "imaginary friend," Jenny. Locked doors suddenly open, and a neighbor's dog barks incessantly. As the malevolent forces become stronger, and the family seems to be falling apart at the seams, the time comes to call in an expert (Alma Martinez) to help cleanse the house. But whatever evil Mike has awakened seems to have other plans.
Is it any good?
Oddly, this well-cast horror movie is more interesting for its family drama than for its scares. It might almost be worth seeing, if not for the nonsensical story, jump scares, and other lazy stuff. Bacon and Mitchell lead an able cast, filling out likably human characters who are flawed but not stupid and try hard to fix things. The family's confrontations -- over drinking, infidelity, bulimia, and autism -- are much more engaging than the strangely flat ghost story.
Directed by Greg McLean (known in horror circles for Wolf Creek), THE DARKNESS often feels like things were left out or simply never added. It addresses the existence of other cultures -- Native American ghosts, a Latina ghost hunter (and an Asian woman who believes in her) -- but only as surface dressing. Ultimately, it's never clear what the story actually is, who these ghosts are, or what will make them go away. They can't even manage anything other than making loud noises to get everyone jumping.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? Does more violence make a movie scarier? What's the appeal of scary movies?
How does the movie represent non-white cultures? Are they superficial, or do they go deeper? What message does that send?
What is bulimia? What is its relationship to body image? Does the movie handle the condition realistically?
- In theaters: May 13, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: September 6, 2016
- Cast: Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz
- Director: Greg McLean
- Studio: High Top Releasing
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some disturbing violence, brief sensuality and language
- Last updated: November 2, 2019
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