THE DARK AND THE WICKED (REVIEW)
Dir. Bryan Bertino
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Some films arrive with a big bang, layers of advertising and anticipation that bring in audiences far and wide. Others less so and beneath the haystacks, there is sometimes a diamond that rips open the genre without the knowledge of headlines and non-genre fans even batting an eyelid. THE DARK AND THE WICKED should be up there with the likes of HEREDITARY, MIDSOMMAR and THE WITCH and stacks as an early contender for scariest film of the year.
When their estranged dying father needs care on his deathbed, brother and sister Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) return home to support their mother and to be there for when their father passes. It becomes apparent things are not normal as the closer to death their father gets, the more unnatural events begin occuring.
THE DARK AND THE WICKED is a slow burning nightmare and that is the highest accreditation a horror film can be give. The unnerving score undercutting the horrific events is perfectly paired and as the ensuing chaos for the family ramps up, the nerves for the audience will leave you on the edge of your seat throughout the duration of the surprisingly short 95 minute runtime.
Both Ireland and Abbott Jr. carry the balance of trying to justify a sense of realism what is going on around them but it becomes very obvious that this is no ordinary deathbed. What Bertino achieves through a sense of momentary storytelling is enough mystery to keep the films events feel both small yet captivating. This is a snapshot in time that plays loose to how the family got here and more about handling the situation in the same loss of control that the brother and sister are surrounded with. This is more about the journey than the destination and the atmosphere built around the traumatic ride.
There are scenes and images that will scar you for days. This is a horror film that plays down it's horrors to the background creating the illusion that there's never really anything close enough to be physically scared of yet your body is saying otherwise. The sheer downbeat themes within the film really add to the slow pacing which itself will not be for everyone. Those seeking blood thirsty creatures need look elsewhere however for fans of THE BABADOOK and HEREDITARY where the tension is there from the off and never lets go, THE DARK AND THE WICKED is nothing short of a horror masterpiece.
The film is a force of nature, a whirlwind of chaos that sucks you in and spits you out at the credits leaving you to pick up the pieces, and your nerves, off the floor. Bertino is no stranger to terror having given us MOCKINGBIRD and THE STRANGERS however what we have been gifted here is a slice of cinematic beauty that will tear feart into the most hardened horror fan.