The Dark and The Wicked (2020) – Bryan Bertino

Bryan Bertino who wrote and directed the now iconic horror film, The Strangers, delves into supernatural territory with this unnerving little film that occasionally misses the mark by leaning too heavily into its scares while presenting the idea of a demonic presence as more of a hunting animal, preying on the weakest, separating them from their pack and claiming them.

Obviously, the characters in the film never heard the Three Dog Night song, Mama Told Me Not To Come so Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) return to their family home against the wishes of their mother, Virginia (Julie Oliver-Touchstone), who is looking after her dying husband (Michael Zagst).

Is Virginia losing her mind? She seems to be talking to herself, but there also seems to be something dark stalking the grounds of the farm, always there, always watching.

After Louise and Michael arrive, things take a tragic turn, and as they search for answers, neither of them will be ready for the truth that those answers lead them to.

For the most part, the film works. Some of the scares are telegraphed and some of them are a little too on the nose, while other ones, Michael watching Virginia out in the yard in the dark, work really nicely.

The film leans into the isolation and paranoia of not knowing who to trust and whether you can trust your own eyes, which is very well done.

There could have been a middle ground for the film where the viewer could question whether these things were actually happening, or if they were seeing and hearing the things they thought they were experiencing, but the way the tale unfolds we know what they are experiencing is real for them.

The idea of a predator that sees us as sheep, and they are then the wolf, is a really smart idea, it gives a bit of an insight into demonic nature, which is far too often thought to be evil for evil’s sake. Here, the idea is suggested that they stalk and take whatever they want, but it also seems to be very much like a wolf, hunting down and thinning the herd, the weaker, slower ones.

The film works as a moody piece of quiet horror, where it fumbles is with its jump scares, there’s nothing new to them, nothing inspired. I love the execution of almost everything except for the jumps, they weren’t surprising, and there were more frights to be had from the sound design and building of tension.

And I was delightfully surprised to see Xander Berkley show up, his name is on the poster and somehow I didn’t see it. So when he showed up I was very happy, and his character adds an interesting twist, and idea as to how the presence in the house did its hunting.

An interesting watch, not fantastic, but there are some cool ideas at work here.

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