DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Anna Paquin as REGINA
    Lena Olin as MARIA
    Iain Glen as MARK
    Giancarlo Giannini as ALBERT RUA
    Fele Martínez as CARLOS
    Fermí Reixach as VILLALOBOS
    Stephan Enquist as PAUL

    Studio: Dimension

    Directed by: Jaume Balagueró
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“Darkness” is about a family that has recently moved back to Spain from America. They are in an isolated home that has certain needs for repair. While the grandfather of the family lives in the city, they still are far away, and the two kids are getting scared. The son starts having hallucinations about something dreadful in the darkness. After some strange incidents, his older sister (Anna Paquin) begins to suspect that they really aren’t hallucinations at all. She meets a young man in town who helps her uncover the mystery of the house in which she lives and its terrible history.

Like “The Nameless,” director Jaume Balagueró’s previous film, “Darkness” shows a strong handle on mood and style. It’s a creepy movie, and there are scenes that should make you jump. However, with a similar subject matter (and a similar type of ending), “Darkness” loses its power in the end. The set-up is good, but not as strong as “The Nameless.”

Balagueró seems to be a director that could take advantage of a mix of cultures. If he can keep his creepy mood and style, but make the overall film more to American tastes, he might just become a major director. There’s still a lot of European feel to “Darkness,” which can sometimes be off-putting to American audiences. Not a value judgement, mind you, just an observation.

The biggest strength of “The Nameless” is the reason why “Darkness” wasn’t as good. In “The Nameless,” the lead actress was just an actor. It wasn’t a vehicle for her or a feather in her cap. No one appeared to rely on the movie to strike a chord with a demographic or pump up the sales with a hot, young actress.

However, “Darkness” does exactly this. It stars Anna Paquin, and it’s promoted with the “X-Men” name to get attention. I have nothing against Paquin as an actor. In fact, she’s one of those few child stars (with an Oscar under her belt, no less), who actually is making a fine transition into adult acting. However, this film was a vehicle for her.

Every aspect of this film, every shred of celluloid was exposed with the intention of being propped up on the shoulders of her reputation. Just take a look at the cover box. While the front cover has your standard haunted house images, the back cover has four shots of her. No other actors, and almost no sets to speak of. It says one thing: “Look at our film! We have Anna Paquin! We’re a real movie!”

Unfortunately, with this attitude, some other talent like Lena Olin is swept under the rug. It’s too bad when a fine talent has to needlessly play second fiddle to another.

The DVD could have had more to it. Instead of giving us some meat behind the film, there’s just a simple making-of documentary that talks a little bit about the process. The only other features include the original theatrical trailer (which is actually becoming more and more rare to find on a DVD) as well as the original teaser.

This DVD is also the “unrated” version. Now, having never seen the theatrical release, I’m unaware of what was added to make it unrated, but it isn’t that much. If I had to guess, this would have been borderline R/PG-13. There’s a bit of blood in some scenes and some intense moments, but I feel the “unrated” moniker is more of a marketing tool than a warning.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.40:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French language track. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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