Review: THE DARK AND THE WICKED, Genuinely Creepy and Scary
Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr. and Xander Berkeley star in a straight-out, scary horror thriller, written and directed by Bryan Bertino.
Oh, great. Now I’m scared of light switches. And chairs. And phones.
Siblings Louise and Michael have returned home, to the family rural farm, to be with their father in what may very well be his final hours. The reception from their mother is one of ambivalent distance. Something is wrong. There is something she is not telling them. Something has come before them to fill In the vacuum created by the despair of her husband’s failing health, but she will not say. The more Louise and Michael realize this, the more they understand they’re all in grave danger. Something is waiting for them all to die.
The farm setting -- director Bryan Bertino, who also wrote the original screenplay, uses the family farm for real here -- works so well because of the isolation, because of the absence of light. Everything (EVERYTHING!!!) is darker at night, save for the glow from naked bulbs swinging in the wind. This gives anything the opportunity to hide anywhere in this rural setting, where just the bare necessities are needed to get by. This includes backlighting Louise and Michael as they investigate strange noises, perhaps symbolic of the darkness that waits for them.
More important, you will find you are often looking into those dark shadows. Will whatever it is that has entered this homestead pop out from here, or over here? Bertino has succeeded in involving you further into his film than just from a reactionary position. You have now upgraded to an active participant in his story, seeking out the source of the noises too.
Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr. are both excellent in their roles as Louise and Michael, processing their emotional response to the needs of their family, followed by the dread of uncovering this evil intrusion into the homestead. And look for a really great supporting role from seasoned character actor Xander Berkeley as the priest. Such a great performance from him, contributing to both the emotional weight in the film and the creepy, unsettling horror.
The less we say about The Dark and The Wicked, the better. Not that we’d run the risk of giving anything away; this is not a case of the less you know, the better. But the success of The Dark and The Wicked is in its execution, and it quickly becomes a movie that is genuinely creepy and scary. Bertino knows the horror playback back to front and he executes each play to perfection. The emotional gravitas of a brother and sister trying to make sense of what is happening in their childhood home and to their parents, and what may happen to themselves, too, gives it that extra heft that begs you to get involved.
Often we will say that horror is subjective, that you may or may not find this scary or entertaining or will jump out of your skin. The Dark and The Wicked, we will say with the utmost confidence, achieves all of those things. It is scary. It is entertaining. It will make you jump out of your skin.
Perfectly set up, established and executed, this is no hyperbole, The Dark and The Wicked is one of the scariest movies of the year.
Review originally published during the Fantasia International Film Festival in August 2020. The film opens in theaters, on Digital and On Demand November 6, 2020.