Review by Larissa Mrykalo
On a secluded farm, a man is slowly dying. Bedridden and fighting through his final breaths, his wife is slowly succumbing to overwhelming grief. To help their mother and say goodbye to their father, siblings Louise and Michael return home. It doesn’t take long for them to see that something’s wrong with mom—something more than her heavy sorrow. Gradually, as their own grief mounts, Louise and Michael begin to suffer a darkness similar to their mother’s, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that an evil entity is taking over their family.
Isolation, confusion, the fear of dying alone, the fear of your parents dying alone and losing them, the fear of Devil himself. Humans harbor many fears and we gravitate towards horror to witness others “experiencing” them so we can get drunk on the adrenaline and subsequent emotional catharsis it brings. Bryan Bertino’s soon-to-be-released, “The Dark and The Wicked” incorporates many of our fears into one beautiful and painfully personal horror film.
Written and directed by Bertino (who also wrote and directed 2008’s “The Strangers”), this film leaves you wondering until the very end, but it’s not frustrating. It’s deliciously devious, it’s devastating, and makes us hang on thinking we’ll see the true face of the evil plaguing this seemingly normal Texan family. “Normal” isn’t one of my favorite words but the Straker family loves and supports each other and are dedicated to helping one another figure out what has mysteriously invaded their farm. Notably, this goat-farm-owning Texas family are atheists and religion permeates the film. Is it a warning? Maybe, but I love the comments from a priest and devout nurse that allude to the premise of “The Strangers.” Evil can simply choose you because you’re home. If you don’t believe in wolves and you encounter a hungry wolf while you’re alone in the forest, the wolf doesn’t care.
There are no clear hints as to why evil has come to this typical place, but the viewer becomes so engaged by the actors, we just enjoy the ride. As the synopsis states, a man is in the final stages of his life and his two children, Louise and Michael (played by Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott, Jr.), come home to comfort their mother in her husband’s final days. The mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) doesn’t seem like herself and is acting strangely. She tells them they should not be there. They are dutiful and loving children, so they ignore her pleas for them to return to their homes. This is a lesson for all of us…listen to your mother. As expected, much tragedy follows. Her diary holds the only vague clues.
This isn’t a slasher film or a typical demonic possession film. There is gore and jump scares, but it borders on psychological thriller. The actors are incredibly talented and bring so much sympathy to the table for this doomed family. “The Dark and The Wicked” is an excellent film that will stick with you for a long time. I highly recommend checking it out when it’s released November 6.
- Production: (U.S.) An RLJE Films (in U.S.), Shudder (in U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand) release of an Unbroken Pictures, Shotgun Shack Pictures, The Traveling Picture Show Co. production, in association with Inwood Road Films. Producers:<b> </b>Bryan Bertino, Adrienne Biddle, Sonny Mallhi, Kevin Matusow.
- Crew: Director, writer: Bryan Bertino. Camera: Tristan Nyby. Editors: William Boodell, Zachary Weintraub. Music: Tom Schraeder.
- With: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Michael Zagst, Xander Berkeley, Lynn Andrews.