by Lauryn Clarke
Do you ever sit and just stare at the screen after a movie is over? Spend the rest of the day with a lingering feeling of unease? That’s exactly what Bryan Bertino gives you with his latest venture into the horror genre. A depiction of a broken family and their grief, this supernatural horror has a claustrophobic feel despite its large farmyard setting, and will stick with you long after you finish watching.
Forced to return home by their father’s ailing health, siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbot Jr) end up having to confront their grief head on at their family’s isolated farm. However, grief is not all the only thing settling over the farm, as there is an increasing feeling of unrest around – but is this truly a malevolent force, or a result of repressed emotion? While this film leaves you with more questions than answers, it is a harrowing watch that is well deserving of its 90% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.
In truth, Ireland and Abbott Jr are the heart of this film. The majority of the interactions in this film are between the two of them, and they provide the catharsis that breaks up the almost palpable tension of this film. With a realistic display of a sibling bond under stress, they manage to keep you empathising with them while watching in fear at the events that unfold around them. Giving heartbreaking performances, both make you feel the strain of the situation but keep it on the side of realism, rather than the over-acting that plagues many films of the genre.
The Dark and The Wicked has all the hallmarks of a good horror film – some kind of potential supernatural terror, farmyard animals (particularly of the hooved kind), and a continued tension throughout – but somehow Bryan Bertino has managed to keep it from fading into the background in this increasingly saturated genre. He somehow has excellently managed to balance the emotions and discord of the characters with the eerie scares and atmosphere, a skill which has served him well in his other films, and particularly in this one.
This is one of those films that manages to keep you on high-alert the whole time – I consistently found myself scanning every inch of the screen in case something was going to pop out of the background to frighten me more. Also deserving of a special mention, the music and sound editing of this film are phenomenal. Several times the sound and music was what made a scene, enhancing the tension that was strung throughout every scene of this film. Working with the setting, the sounds and music came at pivotal points to provide the audience with audible jumpscares and really added an extra dimension to the film.
If you enjoy more psychological and atmosphere based horror flicks (and are okay with some realistic and uncomfortable gore) then this film is absolutely recommended. With an eerie tone and an interesting concept, it is definitely a good lockdown watch.
The Dark and the Wicked is out on Shudder now.