The Dark and the Wicked
RLJE FILMS (2020)
Director: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Xavier Berkeley
Fantasia Festival 2020 Selection
Bryan Bertino is back after four years out of the directing game with The Dark and the Wicked – a claustrophobic horror focusing on two siblings who return to the family farm to tend to their dying father against their mothers wishes. Since 2008’s excellent The Strangers, Bertino has released a handful of movies that have, at worst, been decent and The Dark and the Wicked is a return to the suffocating atmosphere that The Strangers delivered.
Louise (Ireland) and Michael (Abbott Jr.) arrive at the family farm to find their mother on the brink of a breakdown and cryptically telling the siblings that they shouldn’t have come. It turns out that while Dad is, in fact, very ill, there are darker elements at play in the shadows of the remote home. The Dark and the Wicked is dripping with dread and smothered in a suffocating atmosphere that begins immediately and never lets up until the credits roll – the story gets going pretty quickly allowing for more time with the family, exploring their internal issues with themselves and each other, and, of course, more time for scares. Bertino deploys these liberally but effectively, the taut tension that emanates from each scene is interrupted by raw violence that is uncomfortable to anticipate and watch. The introduction of Xavier Berkeley’s Priest adds another dimension to the narrative and introduces religious imagery and demonic ideas that compliment the wider story nicely. The performance of Marin Ireland is excellent – as is the rest of the cast - and really provides the emotional weight that the movie requires, without these strong performances the movie wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it does. Visually, the movie looks great and Bertino utilises the remoteness perfectly to ramp up the required tension and feeling. Not everything in the plot works or combines smoothly but, for the most part, this isn’t an issue and with the on-the-edge-of-your-seat tension throttling you constantly, it doesn’t do anything to derail the movie overall.
Bertino takes a straightforward premise and crafts something sinister and uncomfortable, one of those movies that lingers with you long after its finished. With The Dark and the Wicked, Bertino has crafted a simple yet highly effective horror movie that deserves to be seen by many eyes.
August 30th 2020