(2010) director Brad Anderson
From director Brad Anderson, perhaps best known for The Machinist (2004) in which Christian Bale plays an anorexic freak, comes this horror film of mysterious significance.
We have an urban setting in which in a sudden flash, most everyone disappears, leaving their clothing behind in a puddle where they stood. Those that are left behind, John Leguizamo, Thandie Newton, and Hayden Christiansen, seem to have been overlooked because they had an alternate light source with them. Leguizamo has a head-lamp, Newton a lighter for her cigarette, Christiansen some candles for a romantic encounter that didn’t happen. What we’ve got here is a sort of classic kind of Twilight Zone scenario.
As the story unfolds, they find themselves running from the shadows…literally. Darkness is taking over the world, and in the shadows, which creep toward the protagonists or anyone, seek to suck them from their clothes and disappear them too. They wind up in this rapidly darkening world at a bar whose neon keeps buzzing and whose jukebox keeps grooving by power of its own generator. Each character has his/her own flashback back-story, each tinged with melodrama and cliche, but enough to give everyone a good emoting each.
1. The film is not that well crafted. I kept thinking how the mystery and drama kept stuck at a particular spot throughout the film, never rising nor falling in intensity, how fear failed to be evoked, how in better hands, this could have been a better film.
2. The script and characterization, which this minimalist type of film requires to keep you in it, since there are only so many characters,was weak stuff. Newton’s young mother who has just kicked dope is the dopiest, most amateurish of these characters. But nobody has a lot to work with.
3. Worst of all perhaps, is the key concept. I didn’t mind not knowing whether is was aliens or ghosts or some storm or “the rapture” or whatever it was that was happening, but what irked me constantly was that in this film, where the characters have to find any source of light to fend off the darkness (glow tubes, flashlights, flares, lighters, electricity) why doesn’t everyone build a big fire? Fire is the most primal of lights to fend off the dark, and while not utterly sustainable, probably a lot easier to keep going than some gas-guzzling generator. Heck, the whole town would burn if you gave it a try.
This film could have been a lot more effective. In fact, I even think the title could have been better. It was very flawed in the ways that I’ve detailed here. But it wasn’t utterly lacking somehow. There is still some kernel of a good idea below all the mis-steps and poor elements of execution. I like the notion of a faceless horror, a faceless, unexplained horror.
Good concept, bad script, bad directing, bad logic.