Studio: IFC Midnight
Director: Austin Reading
Writer: Vikram Weet
Producer: Daniel Hyman, Jason Potash, Paul Finkel, Marcus Dean Fuller, Julie S. Fuller
Stars: Tara Holt, Bryce Johnson, Katrina Law
Revisiting the childhood home where horrible family murders took place awakens a supernatural evil for a woman and two friends.
25 years ago, something horrible happened inside Madison’s former childhood home. “Darkness Rising” doesn’t get around to divulging exactly what that something is until 30 minutes in, so prepare for a long road of setup while having only a vague inkling of what the bland build is leading to.
On the eve of the house’s scheduled demolition, Madison decides now is a perfect time for a macabre trip down Memory Lane. With her blah boyfriend Jake and sassy cousin Izzy, Madison breaks and enters hoping for closure from figurative ghosts of her past, only to confront literal ghosts in the present.
The trio becomes trapped inside a tame paranormal nightmare of shadowy shapes, snarling dogs, and flashbacks to family murders that scarred Madison’s memory. “Something in this house wants something” from the three of them, as Madison so descriptively puts it, and that something will stop at nothing to get that something. Or something.
“Darkness Rising” plays as though it were built autonomously using a beta version of a “Scary Movie Generator” app. A creepy doll bleeds from its eyes. A ghost child puts a finger to his lips to whisper, “shhh!” A 911 call connects to a sinister voice with a taunting reply. A hand creeps slowly to pull back a shower curtain. Eyes turn black when someone becomes possessed. A “dun!” music cue plays whenever something ominous pops into frame. “Darkness Rising” cuts and pastes every basic bit from every boilerplate recycled since the start of horror cinema.
For the developer’s sake, hopefully version 2.0 of “Scary Movie Generator” adds options for including a sensible storyline, charismatic characters, or something that isn’t simply a hollow cliché. Because “Darkness Rising” definitely doesn’t feature anything along those lines.
Vikram Weet’s script underwrites the story to be cryptic to the point of being incoherent. In contrast, dialogue is overwritten, creating extraneous lines that are obtuse about their purpose or mere echoes of something already said.
“Darkness Rising” took all the wrong notes from the David Mamet School of Repetition. Word for word, this is an uninterrupted string of blather out of Madison’s mouth: “Izzy! Izzy, stop! Izzy, Izzy, stop! She’s choking! She’s choking! Jake! Jake, do something! Jake! Jake, do something! Do something! Do something! Do something! She’s… Do something!”
Not long after, Madison goes on to say: “Oh my God, I think she’s dead! Oh my God, she’s dead! She’s dead! Oh my God, she’s dead! She’s dead! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Is she dead?” Strangely, actress Tara Holt recites several of these sentences exactly the same way, as if she did two takes at once and the editor mistakenly (carelessly?) used all of the footage. Either that or the second camera’s setup was used to extend the scene by repurposing the beat from a different angle.
“Darkness Rising” is loaded with lines like, “what are you talking about,” “what is she talking about,” “what did you mean by that,” “what are you doing,” and multiple uses of “what?” and “who?” It’s one thing for characters to be slow to piece together a puzzle. When all of the information available to the viewer is maddeningly meaningless, the only possible outcome is obnoxiously frustrating impatience.
Taking a page from the production, perhaps I should fire up “Disinterested Review Generator” to spit out blasé bullet points summarizing remaining notes about the flat film: A prologue so pointless, unless stuffing in a Ted Raimi cameo counts, it may as well be from a different movie. Sets lit by little more than flashlights, making some scenes nigh impossible to see. In virtually every manner imaginable, “Darkness Rising” is as generic as generic can be.
By the way, is Seth actually Madison’s brother or not? Because if he is, the “rule of fives” math doesn’t add up. Not that “Darkness Rising” adds up to much of anything anyway, except paint-by-numbers pap with only one color on its brush: beige.
Review Score: 35