Movie Number– 8
Title– And Soon the Darkness (2010)
Running Time– 91 minutes (“R”)
Director– Marcos Efron
Writer– Jennifer Derwingson (screenplay), Marcos Efron (screenplay), Brian Clemens (1970 film “And Soon the Darkness”) & Terry Nation (1970 film “And Soon the Darkness”)
Starring– Amber Heard, Karl Urban & Odette Yustman
(Originally an IP Movies Review)
Remakes are as common today as ever before, much to the chagrin of many moviegoers. For my money, I don’t mind watching a remake if it is done well, serves a purpose, or happens to be a remake of a film I missed the first time around, as is the case with And Soon the Darkness. This 2010 film is a remake of the 1970 movie of the same name, and has been Americanized, replacing two British female lead characters on a trip to France (1970 version) with two American girls on a trip to Argentina (2010 version). And Soon the Darkness is nothing more than a mediocre effort, with little to set itself apart from other thrillers in this style.
The night before they are scheduled to leave Argentina, Stephanie (Amber Heard – Pineapple Express, Zombieland) and Ellie (Odette Yustman – The Unborn, Cloverfield) visit the local bar. While there, Ellie, the more outgoing of the two, meets a guy, and ditches Stephanie, who heads for bed. Around 3:00 am, Stephanie is woken up to the sound of two people making out against her window: it’s Ellie and her new friend. This new guy wants to take things further than Ellie is willing to go, and the two start to struggle, getting the attention of the girls’ neighbor, Michael (Karl Urban – Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers). Michael helps Ellie make it to her room, and all is well. The next day, after missing their bus, the two girls get into an argument, and split up in this foreign country. Feeling badly about what she did, Ellie texts Stephanie to meet up at a local diner. Stephanie goes to the diner, but there is no sign of Ellie. Going back to where she left her, Stephanie finds only Ellie’s phone, and begins to panic. She calls the local police force, and the hunt for Ellie is on.
If someone guesses the ending of this film based only on the summary, that wouldn’t be surprising. And Soon the Darkness is predictable throughout, with a poorly implemented red herring, and one particularly bad performance.
Odette Yustman is not working with her best script, but even so, her performance in And Soon the Darkness is painful to watch. Yustman does a much more acceptable job in The Unborn, where she is playing a character that seems to fit her personality better: chilled, subdued, and vulnerable. In And Soon the Darkness, Yustman is trying her hardest to play a wild, crazy, sexual being, and this character doesn’t come as naturally to her. To make up for her lack of experience in this type of role, Yustman resorts to playing stereotypes and clichés, and looks uncomfortable on screen. Further inflating the problem, writers Jennifer Derwingson and Marcos Efron make the character of Ellie dislikable. So not only is Yustman fighting against her miscasting, but she is also trying to win back the audience, who will most likely be rooting against her by the second act of the film. As an example, in the opening scene, Ellie is shown leaving her friend for a sexual encounter, and even hitting on a guy that Stephanie is interested in. These are both terrible character traits, and they leave the audience rooting against Ellie. A poorly written character, mixed with Yustman’s amateurish performance, makes Ellie an awkward and uncomfortable character to watch.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Yustman’s co-star, Amber Heard, is not only beautiful (same as Yustman), but a powerful character that demands attention from the viewer. Heard’s advantage over Yustman isn’t huge, but it is clear: Heard’s Stephanie is written more completely than Yustman’s Ellie. Heard shows a soft side at the beginning of the film, finding success in playing above stereotypes. Her work is not stellar, but she does a nice job, and given a better script, could shine in the future. Karl Urban comes off as the grizzled veteran of the group, and though his character is absolute rubbish, he does a fine job with what he is given. I will be interested to see him in the upcoming Judge Dredd film, Dredd, as the titular character.
Though there are problems with his script, writer and director Marcos Efron manages some beautiful shots, filming on location in Argentina. The stark contrast between a barren, burnt out wooded area, and the beautiful actress Amber Heard is startling, and, if nothing deeper, makes for a beautiful picture. The choice not to use subtitles for the Spanish speaking characters is a strong one, too, and one that brings the audience (the non-Spanish speakers in the crowd) closer to the two lead characters; just as the two girls do not know what is going on around them in this foreign country, neither do we, the audience, and that shared experience helps the audience connect with the main characters, if only a little. Efron’s previous works were all in short films, and his first feature length effort shows promise, but ultimately falls short of memorable.
And Soon the Darkness is mostly unremarkable. There is some nice work from Amber Heard, but Odette Yustman and the poor script more than make up for it. Efron appears to have talent as a director, and his cinematographic choices in the film are beautiful and effective. The trouble is that we have seen this underwhelming and predictable story hundreds of times in the past, and And Soon the Darkness stubbornly refuses to take things further, or deeper, than any other films. Instead, it stays on par, which is fine for golf, but not in the thriller genre. Nothing in this film keeps the viewer on the edge of his or her seat, but there isn’t enough bad to turn the movie off either. And Soon the Darkness does a sufficient amount to get the viewer’s attention, but then fails to deliver anything special throughout its 91 minute runtime.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.