The Dark John Fawcett

Adele (Maria Bello) takes her daughter, Sarah (Sophie Stuckey), to see the girl’s rugged father, James (Sean Bean), on the Isle of Man. On their first day, the daughter finds a Welsh lapidarian inscription on a cliff monument, which inspires James’s friend Dafydd (Maurice Roëves) to tell the family the story of a regional legend. The mother and daughter are quarrelling, and one day, while wandering around the rocky coast, the daughter appears to fall into the water and disappear. She’s presumed drowned and as James and Adele attempt to cope with their grief, they find the unwelcome presence of Ebrill (Abigail Stone), the long-dead daughter of a mid-century Welsh cult leader. Canadian director John Fawcett impressed audiences with his previous features Ginger Snaps and The Boy’s Club, and The Dark commences with promising photography and a compelling narrative. The workhorse performances and suggestive gothic atmosphere quickly give way to mediocrity though, as the plotting dissolves in favour of provocative frights. Ending replaces ending in the final half of the film, where tiresome digressions and unsatisfying gimmick twists build on one another to supply a final shock, which is at best acceptable. In defence of its forced imagery, analogous images of dead sheep abound with surprising power. The premise holds potential to speak to heredity, child death, parental responsibility and generational concepts of "afterlife.” The film instead lashes out at these ideas, building a convincing piece of visual storytelling with no visible heart. The DVD contains an alternate ending and a trailer gallery. (Sony)