Studio: Epic Pictures
Director: Mark Edwin Robinson
Writer: Mark Edwin Robinson
Producer: David C. Robinson, Danny Roth, Christine Holder, Mark Holder
Stars: Mischa Barton, Ryan Eggold, Leah Pipes, Jaz Martin
After the deaths of her parents challenge her spiritual beliefs, a young woman finds her faith tested again when her boyfriend goes missing in a haunted building.
About midway through “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” my finger became restless and began inching towards the Stop button. Not because of something that was necessarily wrong with the movie per se, but because I was starting to believe that I had been hoodwinked into a melodramatic romance that purported to be a paranormal thriller when it was shaping up to be nearly nothing of the sort. Not that there is anything wrong with a straightforward pretty people love story or romcom, it was just not what I had primed myself for with that evening’s entertainment. Writer/director Mark Edwin Robinson makes a bold choice to merge genres in his film, although he risks alienating audiences by segregating the horror from the romance instead of fusing the two in tandem.
After vaulting to celebrity status thanks to her star turn on TV’s “The O.C.,” Mischa Barton took a brief career detour that saw her appearing in TMZ clips almost as much as feature films. She bounced back with lead roles in a handful of thrillers, several of which give her quite the pedigree when it comes to navigating haunted hallways and cursed architecture. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” joins “Walled In” and the “Apartment 1303” remake as featuring yet another building that is not at all happy to have Ms. Barton within its walls.
Holding her hand on this particular paranormal excursion is “90210” regular Ryan Eggold. Suitably staffed with handsome faces and an attractive supporting cast, “Into the Dark” is ready for a medley of meet cute romance and supernatural terror.
On his deathbed, Sophia’s devoutly religious father tells his daughter that he made a mistake. There is no Heaven, no angels, and no afterlife. The only thing waiting on the other side is nothingness. Crushed by his death, as well as that of her mother six months earlier, Sophia uses the eulogy at her father’s funeral to challenge God to prove that there is more to life than the mortal coil.
Another six months pass and Sophia literally bumps into Adam on the street. Their awkward first encounter turns to flirting and ends in a tour of Adam’s reportedly haunted apartment building just so that the two can scoff at the idea of ghosts.
So it is that “Into the Dark” establishes itself as a seemingly tame tale about a woman experiencing a crisis of faith while a budding relationship tests her worldview. “Into the Dark” spends its first half in the guise of a Lifetime movie, delivering the notion that the only poltergeist that can be expected is whatever will put Sophia back on a path towards believing in God and life after death. Can this actually be considered a horror movie or is this a puff piece for Christian Mingle?
Adam then goes missing, leaving behind a trail of blood that leads to the abandoned top floor of the apartment building. And what happens up there sends the movie into a dizzying turn of enough paranormal activity that it almost warrants a separate “found footage” investigation with a night vision camera.
From the midpoint, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” is a different movie than what transpired before. The bloodshed continues, apparitions possess souls, vintage phonographs play eerie records, and flickering flashlights illuminate dark passageways and shadowy shapes. The chills are nothing out of the ordinary for any average fright film fan, although Robinson follows the rules in establishing the requisite disquiet and ghostly atmosphere.
Something to appreciate is that when Sophia sees the phantom blood trail that mysteriously disappears before the police arrive, Adam’s roommate sees it too. The movie does not waste too much effort on the clichés of “I’m telling you what I saw!” and “Why doesn’t anybody believe me?” “Into the Dark” puts an intrepid foursome together that is on the same page when it comes to searching for Adam, without wasting time on Sophia having to convince anyone else about what is happening on the top floor.
The real mystery though, is who is this movie for? The disparate tones that seesaw back and forth target half of the movie for one audience, and leave the other half for another. It is hard to picture paranormal enthusiasts caring much for the core relationship, or sentimentalists engaging in scenes of the supernatural. The strange juxtaposition of storylines never coalesces into a single mood, instead confusing the film’s overall intentions for both entertainment and meaning. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” has interesting things to say and interesting things to show with its capable cast. If only it settled on an even tone, it would be easier to recommend the film to whoever is its intended audience.
Review Score: 60