What I'm Watching: The Fear of Darkness
Long time Triskelions will know I have a Thing with shadows. I'm not afraid of the dark, I just have a fear of what's IN the dark. Or if the dark stars moving on its own. So I seek out movies and shows where people are dealing with shadow people.
Which is what lead me to The Fear of Darkness, even though it's not quite about that, but close enough for horseshoes.
The plot revolves around Skye Williams (Most recognised for her role as Liv on Vampire Diaries) after she is found alone in a lakehouse where her boyfriend has gone missing, leaving behind plenty of blood, but no body. She has been marked with strange rashes, and is in a state of shock when the police find her.
They presume this is an open and shut case, but still need to talk to her, and call in Doctor Sarah Faithful, to pull her back to reality, and find out what really happened.
From there, we find out that Skye and her friend took some drugs, had some trippy experiences, and the story slowly unfolds from there.
The mystery deepens, and there are no easy answers. Sarah gets pulled into Skye's apparent delusions, going on a quest to find out what happened to satisfy her own curiosity, and doesn't turn away when things start to get paranormal.
I really enjoyed this movie. It's hard to pigeonhole it, because the movie takes enough turns that it goes from one clearly defined thing to another, and ends up in a third place altogether. At its core, I think it is safe to say the movie is a mystery/thriller in the purest sense. You're following Sarah as she follows clues, no matter how impossible, to what happened at the lake.
The two leads are very good, although maybe hard to really get behind either of them. You don't spend enough time with a lucid Skye, and because of who she is, Sarah is very cool and clinical, making her a little standoffish. Still, there's enough going on that the plot remains fairly interesting.
I love the cinematography and design choices they uses. The camera plays a lot with reflections, and while that's always a great style choice, the movie uses it so well, with several creepy moments that are plot driven more than "Hey look, we're using the symbology of duality here!" The colour palette is muted, with almost everyone wearing black. The soul exceptions are Skye, who is in shades of grey, and Sarah in white. It becomes clear as the movie goes on why this is, if not in a specific story reason, but in a meta style reason. It's not quite the black hat/white hat duality of old cowboy movies, but it's a good subconscious signal for the brain to tap into.
They also do a solid job of keeping the threat and mystery going. They never pause for long without keeping the mystery bubbling, and there's enough moments of creepy things going on that there are very few lulls for you to fall out of the movie. It maybe could've been tightened up just the teeniest bit, but there's not a lot I'd change. It is definitely a slow burn of a mystery, but it never FEELS slow.
And now to slide into a little spoiler territory, because I need to talk about the ending.
The ending...I really want to love and hate the ending, for different reasons. In the end, it all turns out that this whole movie is playing out in Skye's brain, after she had a break from reality a decade ago. The character of Sarah Faithful was created to protect her, help her, and draw her out of this other reality she created for herself.
On the one hand, this makes everything we've seen before be seen in a whole new light, make a lot more sense, even the symbolic stuff. It does come dangerously close to the IT WAS ALL A DREAM trope I loathe, but it gets things mostly right.
On the other hand, it does make it seem like what we just watched feel like a bit of a waste when it's all fantasy. And I can't even say it's a twist for twisting sake. This was the story, it was probably always the story, and they set up that ending VERY well, from the design, to the story, to hints laid down along the way. The biggest strength is that they played fair with the obvious, without laying out all their cards from the beginning.
And having these events we've just been watching being what leads to a triumphant victory where Skye/Sarah pull themselves together and go back to reality at least gives the movie a purpose to its narrative and also lets you feel good at a conclusion.
Sadly, there's a few last moments that remain baffling, and may or may not be turning things back towards the paranormal with the creature in the dreamworld following through within Skye? I'm really not sure.
Still, this was a largely enjoyable movie, with an interesting story that feels familiar, but I haven't seen the sort in awhile. It uses it's small cast to great effect, with solid design choices that lead you through a twisty mystery with a frustratingly satisfying conclusion. For an indie thriller/horror flick, I can't complain too much, and definitely recommend it.