Mikey Taylor isn't your average kid. A doctor would call him a high-functioning autistic. But his sister Steph describes him as having "a different way of seeing things." And perhaps that's a better explanation of what makes him tick. He has a special sense of wonder. He can appear perfectly unremarkable one moment and be completely entranced by some speck of minutia the next.
That's probably why Mikey wasn't panicked in the least when he fell into a subterranean cavern.
His family and some friends were all barbequing and snapping photos in an old desert canyon. And while off with his sister, Mikey took the wrong hopping step and poof, he was gone. The rest of the group didn't even realize he was missing until he quietly made his way back.
No, he wasn't hurt. In fact, he found the fall into the soft dirt below to be quite interesting. And the spooky cavern decorated with huge animal drawings that he found himself in was enthralling, too. He probably could have kept exploring that place for a long time, but a certain part of his brain told him he'd better find a way back to the group above. So he did.
But not without taking a few souvenirs.
Now some kids might mention that they found a hidden cavern and picked up some super-cool stones decorated with ancient symbols. But Mikey wasn't that kind of kid. He would rather keep all that to himself. That way he could take those stones with him wherever he went—hiding them away in his backpack and arranging them just so on his bedroom floor.
Besides, all the things that started happening once he and his family got back home were just so interesting. Who cares about an ancient old cavern ... when you can bring its ancient spiritual inhabitants home with you?
This film suggests that when things go bad, a family sticks together. Even though personal struggles are weighing the Taylors down—including Mikey's erratic autism, Steph's discovered bulimia and mom Bronny's struggle with alcohol—they rally to one another as the dark spiritual things around them press in. All the while, Mikey's dad, Peter, works diligently to help his loved ones with their separate issues. And during an encounter with spiritual entities, Peter offers himself in trade for Mikey's safety.
We find out that Peter has been unfaithful in his marriage in the past, but has vowed to change his ways. And when approached by a pretty co-worker, he declines any out-of-work contact. Peter and Bronny proclaim their love for each other.
At one point Bronny opines that the disturbances in their home might be "some kind of karma" connected to their relational struggles. But the Taylors eventually realize that a far darker spirituality is at play.
The stones Mikey took from the wall-painted cavern are described as magical talismans used to hold back evil animal demons feared by the Anasazi Indians. Peter watches a documentary detailing the ancient torments that went along with those kinds of superstitions, and the rituals performed to keep the evil entities from stealing away children.
The Taylors eventually invite an elderly spiritual "healer" and her granddaughter to cleanse their home of its darkness. The healer says she senses how old the invading spirits are and states, "The god you might be familiar with cannot help you now." The pair then performs a series of rituals aimed at explosively vanquishing the demonic creatures.
At the pinnacle of many supernatural happenings—ranging from moving doors and turned-on taps to magically appearing snakes, sooty handprints and swirling black clouds—five huge, clawed demons appear, taking on a part human, part animal form.
Peter and Bronny, dressed, respectively, in boxers and a slip, kiss and caress after waking up together. We see Bronny swimming in a skimpy bikini. And several of her tops are also revealing. Steph is in the shower (seen from the shoulders up) and wraps a towel around herself after hearing odd noises.
In the course of Taylor's spiritual torment, a wall is set on fire, leaving it covered in black, bubbling soot. Mikey and Steph are both manhandled by invisible hands that leave behind sooty black prints. Steph chokes and Mikey spits up a bloody substance. A bathroom is covered with large ancient cave drawings that appear to be created from blood. Shattered glass is supernaturally propelled into the air, acting like shrapnel as it hits and slices two women. A dog attacks Steph, bloodying her forearm. A black storm cloud takes shape indoors and hits a woman with a lightning bolt.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word (along with two uses of "frickin'"), four or five s-words, and two or three uses each of "a--" and "h---." God's and Jesus' names are misused several times each (God's getting combined twice with "d--n").
Drug and Alcohol Content
Friends have glasses of wine at an outdoor barbecue, and couples drink with dinner. Peter and his boss imbibe snifters of brandy. Bronny is defined as a recovering alcoholic, but she grabs bottles of vodka when things get stressful.
Other Negative Elements
The camera watches closely as Steph shoves her fingers down her throat, making herself vomit. She stores containers of the expelled stuff under her bed.
Derivative. The word defines something that is "imitative of the work of another person, and usually disapproved of for that reason."
It's valid to suggest that all horror films are derivative to a certain extent, calling upon some of the same formulaic moving shadows, overly loud sounds and thumps in the attic that have been used time and again. But The Darkness is derivative times 10.
Even the characters who make up the family at the story's core—the alcoholic mom, the unfaithful husband/dad, the autistic son, the bulimic daughter—all feel like they've been plucked from some master "Character Description" book for beginning writers. And even though quite unrelated in reality, it's postulated that perhaps their personal dysfunctions are the reason they fail for so long to connect the dots between the rancid scents, inexplicably moving objects, and the constant gymnastic tumbling that's suddenly commenced behind bedroom walls.
By the time they (and we) are spoon fed a heaping helping of ancient spiritual nonsense and given a "Your god cannot help you now!" warning, well, the whole shebang feels eye-rollingly bad.
Unwatchable. Do I need to define that one?
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kevin Bacon as Peter Taylor; Radha Mitchell as Bronny Taylor; David Mazouz as Michael Taylor; Lucy Fry as Stephanie Taylor; Paul Reiser as Simon; Ming-Na Wen as Wendy
Greg McLean ( Wolf Creek)
High Top Releasing
May 13, 2016
September 6, 2016