Friday, June 17, 2011

And Soon the Darkness (2010)

I didn't mean to watch this movie, I swear I didn't.  I saw it on Netflix and confused it with A Perfect Getaway; I'm starting to really enjoy Timothy Oliphant, thanks to Justified, and I was curious to see a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth.  Well, And Soon the Darkness is not that movie.  At all.  I wish it was --- and A Perfect Getaway probably isn't that good, either.  But, since I started it, I figured I might as well finish it and never be tempted to watch it again.

And Soon the Darkness is a remake of a 1970 horror movie of the same name, and it probably follows the same basic plot.  I don't feel like checking, so we'll just assume that's true.  The film opens with a woman being held against her will in a basement or torture room or someplace scary and dank.  We hear her crying and screaming for a bit, and then we see someone (presumably her captor) motivate her silence my whipping her with some stripped (but charged) electrical wires.  If you want more of that story, you should really just switch to Hostel or Hostel II, because this film doesn't really go back to this point.  Instead, it skips ahead three months to find two stupid American ladies vacationing in Argentina; Stephanie (Amber Heard) and Ellie (Odette Yustman) are part of a larger tour group, but they decided to spend their last night in Argentina on their own.  Being attractive and young only amplifies the pair's stupid American-ness; neither of them speaks much Spanish, or knows anything about the area, or can pick up on subtle warnings.
I'm glad their helmets are protecting their handlebars.
And when I say "subtle," I mean multiple people telling them to stay together and not leave their friend alone.  They stick together at first; they go to a bar, where Ellie hits on anything that moves and eventually drunkenly stumbles  off with a sexy Latin man.  She doesn't get kidnapped here.  I point that out because the movie clearly sets up the expectation of her kidnapping with several instances of Stephanie having difficulty finding Ellie; Ellie is sometimes found in another room or, in one case, one camera pan away.  Well, when Ellie stumbles back to their room in the early AM, she accidentally unplugs Stephanie's alarm clock, so the pair sleep in late and miss the daily bus out of San Frankidnaptown.  Both women have cell phones, so I don't know why they were relying on a hotel clock, but whatever, that is certainly not the biggest flaw in this movie.  When they miss the bus, the girls decide to try again tomorrow.  What should they do until then?
If you answered "Roll over and kiss," you will be extra disappointed.
That's right, they find a nice, secluded area and tan for a few hours.  Eventually, Stephanie decides that they had better get going have to meet a bus in another twenty hours?  I'm not quite sure.  Anyway, she wants to leave and Ellie wants to stay, they start bitching at each other and they split up, with Ellie opting to sunbathe alone in a forest clearing.  Shockingly, Ellie disappears.  When Stephanie realizes this, she starts looking and does everything in her power to find her friend.  No luck.  What can she do to find her friend so far away from home?  And is Ellie really in trouble?  The answers are "not a whole lot" and "yes," respectively.  The real question is how long before Stephanie disappears?

I don't have terribly high standards for movies that fall in the horror genre, but even I have my limits.  Before I say anything mean about the acting, though, I should point out that this is a poorly written script.  That said, I think I can honestly say with some assurance that Odette Yustman is not a good actress.  Yes, she's attractive, but that doesn't give her the right to annoy me with her voice or soulless eyes.  Here, she gets to act bitchy and vapid.  And later, scared.  It's quite a bit of range for her.  Amber Heard is not much better.  Her well-behaved idiot is boring and charisma-free, so you never actually care if she is going to find her friend or if she will remain unharmed.  She's not annoying, but she never gives you a reason to like her, either.  Karl Urban plays the mysterious and creepy other American that just happens to be in St. Kidnappey.
Yeah, he looks trustworthy.
His character is annoyingly and foolishly close-vested about his motives, but Urban's performance was a revelation for me.  Namely, he isn't a very good actor, and it becomes more apparent when he's not playing a medieval-style warrior.  Cesar Vianco was mediocre at best as the villain, and that's all the effort I want to spend thinking about him.

As for the work of first-time feature film director and co-writer of And Soon the Darkness, Marcos Efron, I just have to say this: boo.  I went into this movie thinking it was another film entirely and I was still very aware that this was going to be a movie about kidnapping.  That is terrible direction.  There was no suspense.  There was no logic to the camera work.  All the actors sucked, so he certainly didn't direct them.  This isn't even an original screenplay, since it's a remake --- and the story is still awful!  Here's a hint for future writer/directors: if your South American characters are speaking Spanish (without subtitles) throughout the movie, they shouldn't be speaking in English when they discuss the most illegal parts of the plot.  That's stupid.  Not as stupid as the fates of the characters, but it's still dumb.
Like, "Run, Forrest, run!" dumb.

Since this is a pretty horror-free horror movie and there is no nudity in the film, there really isn't any reason for this movie to exist.  Sure, Odette Yustman sings along to the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself," but that's a pretty piss-poor highlight for any movie.  The characters act without any semblance of personality or logic, the script is dull, and the plot is obvious.  The only aspect of this movie that keeps it from being utter trash is the very legitimate fear of kidnapping while traveling abroad.  There is a good movie to be made with this idea.  This isn't it, but the basis for this plot could inspire something that isn't soul-crushingly bad.  As for this movie, I wish I could bass slap (that's swinging a bass --- the fish --- like a bat into somebody's face) everyone involved.

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