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Blu-ray Review

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The Dark and The Wicked


Starring: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr. and Xander Berkeley
Distributor: Acorn Media International
RRP: £19.99

5 036193 020339

Certificate: 18
Release Date: 07 July 2021

Even though they are warned not to, Michael and Louise travel to their parents’ remote farmstead when they hear that their father is dying. He lies close to death, constantly in sleep, and with a 24-hour oxygen feed. However, there is more going on in the house than they bargained for. Objects move by themselves, their mother is not herself, uttering cryptic comments, chanting religious mantras, and going about her tasks as if in a daze. When her father appears to her outside the stall where she is taking a shower, Louise believes she is experiencing a waking nightmare. Their father is bedridden, and it is impossible that he would be walking. After their mother hangs herself, Louise and Michael discover her diary wherein she speaks of a demonic presence attempting to possess her husband. But is it mental anguish and grief speaking, or is there substance to her words...?

This is less like a horror and closer to a dark psychological drama. More like a potboiler spiral into depression… and boy, is this film depressing! The mother cuts off her own fingers and subsequently commits suicide, an entire herd of goats is massacred, and there is a scene involving Michael near the end which maintains the grim catalogue of events. There is only one conventional jump scare; the rest is the regular adding of thick layers of gloom and mire. There isn’t even a conclusive ending. I’m not one of those viewers who likes everything tied-up into a neat little package with a bow on the top. I often enjoy an open or ambiguous finish to the proceedings, so that events can be speculated upon. Here though there is no real progression. We discover nothing about the demon – or even if it is a demon. It just trundles on until the end of the running time, with no progression. It isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t go anywhere.

I should also mention the sound. I have a speaker system designed for 4k, so Blu-ray is normally no problem in terms of properly splitting the sound. However, even though I turn up the voice control much of the dialogue drops into a low mix of indistinguishability. It doesn’t help that the majority of the speech is murmured – particularly those between the siblings when they don’t want their mother to hear.

I think the main problem with this film is the storyline balance. You need light and shade to make each of those work individually, but there is too much hopelessness, no flicker of hope – even if it is quickly extinguished. The characters have to be allowed to breathe, to believe they can make things right. In The Dark and the Wicked they are simply witnesses to uncontrollable events, and the viewer soon grows tired of the spectacle if there is no attempt at triumph over adversity.


Ty Power

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