And Soon the Darkness (2010) Review

Karl Urban can take off and put on his sunglasses like almost no one, challenging even the great David Caruso from C.S.I. Miami. It’s about the only memorable part of Urban’s performance in And Soon the Darkness, a remake of the 1970 thriller of the same name.

The re-do changes little except for the location, and eliminating all the tension. It wants to be this brooding thriller, but spending time with specific characters only reveal who is behind a series of kidnappings within the gorgeous Argentina countryside. There are only so many people who could be behind it, weeding them out the easy part.

It doesn’t help that any attempt at legitimate tension is bogged down by hardly noteworthy direction from Marcos Efron who also is credited with the script. All of the positives from his lens work are spent in the opening credits, the location shoot every bit as beautiful as it should be. Stick Amber Heard and Odette Yustman within these environments, and things only begin to look even better.

Looks or not, any compelling elements are drowned out by the pacing and performances, no one here giving anything noteworthy, the least of all Urban. The film sort of languishes without any distinctiveness, relying on cliches (oh, she dropped the keys; oh, the truck won’t start) because it has little else to establish an air of fear as the girls run from their captor.

Darkness earns a few points for a familiar but somewhat exciting finale, the nighttime chase ending exactly where you expect it would, but it’s a short ride to get there. The combo of the frantically paced drum score/screeches and tricky sound design are all put together with care, but it feels like more of a chore when you already know the conclusion.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Anchor Bay’s AVC encode for Darkness is a winner, the opening moments as the camera pans over the mountainous countryside setting a high standard, one the rest of this transfer will live up to. Colors are deeply saturated, just one element that makes the location shoot so striking. Every hue is intense and rich, from the gorgeous flesh tones to the brilliant greens that dot the land. Earth’s blue sky may look better here than it does on even a clear day outdoors.

It excels in detail too, the vibrant grasslands dominated by defined strands of tall grass, loads of trees, and rocky paths. The transfer never gives up to flicker or other unsightly faults. The camera moves in or out and it doesn’t really matter. Facial detail is sublime in spots, although is also one of the faults that likes to creep in. It never finds that perfect consistency although it’s close. Softness seems to be more of a focal issue than anything, Urban at 43:34 in particular a bit out of whack, while readily defined at 57:59.

There are brief battles of noise in an early bar scene, the dim lighting doing no favors to the otherwise standard grain structure. Walls are riddled with visible dancing blocks that only digital video can provide. Still, the black levels remain firm, and maybe “firm” doesn’t quite cut it. These are deep, contrasting blacks that deliver an outstanding level of dimensionality, the bright contrast aiding here too.

The final half hour or so of the movie intentionally desaturates, this to the point that a brown truck almost seems colorized amidst the barren rubble of a destroyed city. The immense level of destruction in this abandoned ghost town still delivers that level of crisp, enormous definition, making the sudden swap of palettes a marginal aversion to the rest of the eye candy.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Sound design becomes crucial in the closing moments of this one, the TrueHD mix presenting it undoubtedly to perfection as creaky boards and tipped over bottles crash in specific channels to add tension. It’s the peak of this one, the bland gunfire that briefly spills over into one scene just sort of there. It doesn’t do much for the low-end, and there’s not much to a satisfying, high-end pop either. Blah is the best way to describe that.

The rest of this movie concentrates on hefty ambiance, the sounds of birds and insects buzzing through the rear channels with great effectiveness, still a background event but elevated enough to make it an important part of the mix. The bar scene early focuses on that general surround work too, patron chatter and a jukebox spilling into the stereos with effectiveness and a bleed into the rears.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

A video diary is more of a brief commentary as director Marcos Efron chats over behind-the-scenes footage and stuff from the film. Deleted scene are of especially low quality, running near the seven minute mark. A trailer is left.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆