The Horror, The Horror: Part 3

Three more horror outings that have featured in my 2014 viewing.

The Dark (2005)

This is allegedly inspired by Simon Maginn’s novel Sheep, which I read many moons ago, but sadly I can’t see much in the way of resemblance, and in some of the bonus material the director and his hoodies explain how they had to part ways with the writer because he didn’t get behind their vision, or something like that. James (Sean Bean) and Adelle (Maria Bello) are separated, but she visits him at the isolated Welsh farmhouse where he now lives, and seemingly within hours of arriving daughter Sarah drowns. The grieving couple are visited by another young girl, the mysterious and slightly sinister Ebril, who it turns out is the daughter of a cult leader who was killed many years ago, and a former resident of the farmhouse. In this scenario people can return from the land of the dead if someone else takes their place, which is the cue for Adelle to attempt to rescue Sarah. It’s actually a bit more interesting than my description makes it sound, with some genuinely unsettling moments in flashback, including imagery of sheep and people jumping off the nearby cliff and the cult leader’s attempt at trepanning his daughter. In a subtext, Adelle is carrying a heavy load of guilt over aspects of her relationship with Sarah, while the depiction of the afterlife had a certain novelty to it, a quality of limbo, albeit a rather dreary version, and the ending is very bleak. It did play fast and loose with real world concerns, as when James gets to bring Ebril home from the hospital, when logic dictates social services would step in, but we can turn a blind eye, I guess. Overall I liked it, but don’t think I’ll be in any hurry to watch again – some of the themes and ideas were reprised in 2006’s Silent Hill which I thought was a much better film, with Sean Bean once again cast as the husband/father who is out of the loop.

The Messengers (2007)

After the success of The Eye series, the Pang brothers get to be Hollywood hotshots and this is the result. A typical American family move to an isolated farmhouse to raise sunflowers, but of course the desres has a chequered history and before you can say poltergeist, troubled teen Jess (Kristen Stewart, looking appropriately sullen) is experiencing all sorts of minatory psychic phenomena, and nobody believes her until the stage is set for an sfx laden finale in which a madman gets what is coming to him. I didn’t not enjoy this film, but it all felt like going over familiar ground, with the requisite jump moments and half hearted attempts at ambiguity. There were one or two good shivers and shakes, but nothing that hadn’t been done before and done better, and almost no plot developments that had any element of the unexpected about them. Looking back, the only thing that still puzzles me is what was the smoking man from The X-Files doing there, with an attempt to purchase the farm for which I could see no rhyme or reason, other than to create a little bit of tension between husband and wife.

Insidious 2 (2013)

Director James Wan continues the story begun in his 2010 outing Insidious, and to my mind this is that rare thing, a sequel that is superior to its predecessor. The first film ended with the death of medium Elise and the suspicion that loving husband and father Josh has been possessed by an entity he encountered on the other plane while attempting to rescue his son, and that’s where we pick up here. But the truth of what is taking place lies in the past and Josh’s childhood, when he too was subject to out of body experiences. To put matters right, Josh’s wife and mother must join forces with Elise’s former partners to discover the secret of a serial killer. There aren’t the same number of jump movements as in the previous film, the sequel relying more on solid plotting, with developments and revelations that explain much of what took place before, and some interesting psychological observations on the genesis of a serial killer. I wouldn’t claim it as a classic horror film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a cleverly constructed piece, with engaging characters and a consistent view of the afterlife, a disturbing atmosphere and moments of high tension, and it thoroughly entertained me for the time that it lasted. I suspect I will want to watch it again at some point, perhaps in tandem with the first film, to see if I can glean anything more about what was going on. Conversely, news that a third film is in the works causes me a mild tremor of apprehension.

 

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