There are two kinds of horror movies. There are those that create a legitimate sense of fear that you experience vicariously through convincing characters. And then there are those that rely on cheap tricks and loud noises. This second kind of horror movie may startle you in the moment, but it doesn’t scare you, and The Darkness is one of those. 

The movie opens in what we later find out is the Grand Canyon, though it isn’t that grand. 1-starIt looks like it may have actually been shot on a rocky lot out behind a studio sound stage. There are four people having a cookout, and it takes a while to realize they’re supposed to be two couples. There are two reasons for this. While Matt Walsh is a gifted actor and often the funniest part of the funniest show on TV in Veep, his character here is a bumbling doofus of a dad, and it stretches the limits of the imagination to believe his wife is Jennifer Morrison, a beautiful actress who is 15 years younger. Almost as incongruous is the coupling of the 58-year-old Kevin Bacon with blonde Australian soap star Radha Mitchell, who is likewise 15 years his junior.

Anyway, the couples’ three kids wander off to explore the canyon and encounter some kind of evil spirit. The movie tells us this with jarring sound effects that could have been created by dropping cinder blocks on piano keys from some great height. If there were an Academy Award for subtlety, this movie would not be nominated.

Bacon’s family brings this evil spirit back home with them and it begins haunting their house. From that point, the movie just recycles all the old Amityville haunted house tropes. Some touches, like the black hand prints that appear from nowhere, are more effective than others.

But just as in the opening scene, the movie is full of details that are just enough out of place to become a distraction. Before watching he movie, I didn’t know Radha Mitchell or Lucy Fry, who plays the daughter, are both Australian. But there were times when their American accents drifted into what was clearly Australian pronunciations–particularly Fry, who struggled with the letter R in some words.

Kevin Bacon has been a beloved actor for over 30 years, and I’d like to talk about how he’s actually pretty convincing in his role and too good for this movie. But it’s impossible not to notice his hair, which is dyed such an unnaturally dark colour it looks like a wig.

As often happens in the kind of horror movie that cheats to startle the audience, there are often scenes where the characters’ reactions are disproportionate to what they should know up to that point, just for the sake of building tension. In one scene, Radha Mitchell tells Kevin Bacon their daughter is in her room and she can’t get her out. If that’s all he knows, why does he start freaking out and banging on the door? She could just have her headphones on with the door locked. But it’s almost as if he knows the supernatural terror threatening her in the room–as if he, too, could hear the cinder blocks falling on the piano keys.

Title The Darkness
Director Greg Mclean
Runtime 92 min
Starring Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, Lucy Fry
Writer Shayne Armstrong, Shane Krause, Greg Mclean
Production Blumhouse Productions, Chapter One Films