The Dark

Rating 2½

Directed by John Fawcett

Written by Stephen Massicotte, based on the novel ‘Sheep’ by Simon Maginn

Starring Maria Bello, Sean Bean, Sophie Stuckley, Maurice Roëves, Abigail Stone and Richard Elfyn

Adèle (Maria Bello) is living apart from James (Sean Bean), an artist and the father of her daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckley), who she has a difficult and strained relationship with. She takes Sarah to visit James, who has recently moved into a dilapidated farmhouse on the coast in a remote region of Wales. Sarah disappears off the rocks, apparently drowning, although an extensive search and rescue mission fails to locate her body. Adèle becomes convinced she is still alive and that the truth lies with a religious cult that committed mass suicide there 50 years previously – and to a place of the dead known as “Annwyn”.

This 2005 joint German / UK production was produced by Paul W S Anderson, the British film director responsible for ‘Event Horizon’, ‘Resident Evil’ and ‘Alien vs Predator’, amongst others. It was directed by the Canadian film director John Fawcett, who is best known for his cult 2000 werewolf film ‘Ginger Snaps’. It seems not to have been released into cinemas, in the US at least, and no reviews are collected at Rotten Tomatoes.

Vaguely based on an out-of-print novel called ‘Sheep’ written by Simon Maginn, it should probably have been called ‘the film that didn’t know when to end’. It starts off promisingly enough, but then takes a dip in quality before briefly rallying as the story heads in a similar direction to the vastly superior Spanish film ‘El Orfanato’ (The Orphanage). However, once it reaches it climactic scenes it begins to drag badly and then lurches through a succession of false endings.

It could be that Fawcett did this deliberately to confound the film’s audience, leading viewers into a certain expectation, only to introduce yet another twist to the story. If this was the intention, it is badly executed. On the other hand, it might simply be deficiencies in the script, or the fact that he didn’t know how to end the film. Either way, I found it extraordinarily annoying.

‘The Dark’ is quite atmospheric, if a little obvious. Fawcett showed with ‘Ginger Snaps’ what he is capable of and this film is not entirely without merit. I often find Sean Bean quite difficult to watch, for no obvious reason that I can think of, but that wasn’t the case here.

“Annwyn” is based on genuine Welsh mythology, although it should be written as “Annwn” or “Annwfn”. In mythology it is a place somewhat akin to Heaven, although in the film it becomes a place of darkness.

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