The Dark and the Wicked

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“Not today Satan, not today!” I quietly whispered while watching this rumination on the devil. It was drag queen Bianca Del Rio who popularized this famous declaration on season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race back in 2014. Since then the phrase has become so ubiquitous that I doubt many people are even aware of its origin, but I like to educate as well as entertain with my reviews.

Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) are siblings whose father (Michael Zagst) is slowly dying. The two arrive at their childhood home in Thurber, Texas to help support their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone). Mom has been caring for their father alone in a large ranch house on an isolated farm. She is overwhelmed by grief. Instead of welcoming their assistance, she seems agitated by their arrival. The home has been possessed by a dark and wicked (hence the title) entity and she had wanted to spare them the trauma. Now that they’re here, they too have become victims to the spirit’s heinous presence.

The chronicle is a very grim tale that mines a growing hopelessness. Even the religious nurse (Lynn Andrews) isn’t immune to the evil lurking within the home. Louise and Michael are detached and distant — not the kind of likable protagonists we usually want to embrace. The two have drifted apart. Granted, they are human beings. We have a basic kinship with their characters and situation. Although far from enemies, they aren’t particularly supportive of one another. Their relationship is almost antagonistic. Perhaps they’re racked by the guilt of having abandoned their parents to a lonely existence. This tension adds to an already unsettling environment.

This is essentially a haunted house flick. Director Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) relies on tropes famously implemented in films like The Exorcist and The Shining. This isn’t as good as either of those classics but the filmmaker is smart enough to take inspiration from the best. The events play out during one week and title cards break up the chapters by reminding the viewer what day it is. These waking nightmares grow more threatening over that period. At first, it’s suggested the disturbing visions are merely the product of a troubled psyche. Their frequency and intensity soon proves otherwise. Something malevolent is seizing the family. The creativity of the shocks along with the aggressive nature of the demon make this story quite compelling. There is something genuinely sinister here.

The devil is (literally) in the details. Jump scares can be effective. Sound designer Joe Stockton is the MVP. Creaky floorboards have never seemed as frightening as they do here. Every sound effect is terrifying. Every manifestation of the demon is alarming. Its potency will depend on your own experiences and taste. I appreciate subtlety and restraint in my horror. The first half worked a lot better than the second where the gore becomes more overt. Also, I’m not a fan of abrupt endings where a situation goes unresolved. Put that misstep in the negative column as well. Still, the anxiety culled from this atmospheric piece is pitch-perfect manifestation of dread. Its ability to extract a visceral fear is masterful. I’m saying that yes, I was scared….a lot….by this film.

11-06-20

2 Responses to “The Dark and the Wicked”

  1. Sounds intense. Your review is the only thing I’ve read on it so far so we’re off to a good start. I’ll keep this one in mind for sure

    Like

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