Greg McLean’s The Darkness would be an exercise in comical ineptitude if it weren’t so pointless. Much of the movie tries emphasizing suburban angst and the dissolution of a white, bourgeois family (led by an emaciated Kevin Bacon and bored-looking Radha Mitchell), taking place before–or perhaps a result of–some demonic intrusion into their everyday lives. The dreary familiarity of this premise is briefly enlivened in the early going when, on a smiley camping trip to the Grand Canyon, the autistic son is told about Native spirits who could bring about the end of the world if allowed to cross over from the spirit realm. The ensuing brush with the supernatural, and how it’s brought home, plays serene and largely off-screen, promising a low-key apocalypse in the vein of Prince of Darkness.
No such luck. Instead, we’re treated to a series of stuttering dramatic arcs: a daughter’s bulimia; Mitchell sinking into helpless drinking as she stares at family photos; the son’s disorder manifesting in dangerous outbursts (though really the work of the spirits); Bacon’s barely-working architect eyeing a new assistant his boss dangles before him. None of these build, inching the family towards implosion, only occur in succession. Impact and danger rarely last beyond a scene. The implication is these problems arise solely from the parents’ own distracted absence (an overused scare tactic, the son walking off while one or both parents are preoccupied, could become a drinking game), but consequences are rare. Once the threat is clearly established, thanks partly to all-too-convenient web page and a video specifying the whats and whys (even how to stop it), it becomes a matter of family togetherness and roping in a medium or two, last minute. May as well have been a film about performing household chores.