(director: David F. Sandberg; screenwriter: Eric Heisserer; cinematographer: Marc Spicer; editor: Kirk Murri/Michel Aller; music: Benjamin Wallfisch; cast: Teresa Palmer (Rebecca), Gabriel Bateman (Martin), Alexander DiPersia (Bret), Maria Bello (Sophie), Billy Burke (Paul), Alicia Vela-Bailey (Diana), Andi Osho (Emma); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: James Wan, Lawrence Grey, Eric Heisserer; Warner Bros. (New Line Cinema); 2016)
“It successfully gets by with minimal dialogue and basic old-fashioned scares like loud noises and screams.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg adeptly helms this low-budget horror/thriller in his directorial debut. It successfully gets by with minimal dialogue and basic old-fashioned scares like loud noises and screams. Writer Eric Heisserer keeps things supernatural exciting and scary, while keeping the narrative realistic but the outcome predictable.
Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is the troubled insomniac 22-year-old, who left home many years ago after her fatherabandoned her unbalanced mom Sophie (Maria Bello) who was treated at an insane asylum. She now lives alone in a downtown LA apartment. When her ten-year-old step- brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), from mom’s new husband, the textile factory owner named Paul (Billy Burke), develops the same scary psychological symptoms Rebecca had in the dark as a child, she tries to help Martin to cope with that and with the recent suspicious death of his wealthy father Paul in his factory. Martin informs Rebecca that mom has been secretly talking in the dark with an imaginary figure named Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey, a former gymnast and stunt performer), who only emerges in the dark and pretends to be mom’s best friend. To protect Martin from this evil ghostly manifestation, Rebecca takes Martin to live in her apartment. But Child Protective Services forces Rebecca to bring Martin back home. We learn that the evil being Diane only can survive in the dark, as Rebecca returns to mom’s luxury estate with Martin and her supportive boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), and vows to confront it when the lights are out to save her family from further harm.
The result is a simple but chilling resolution to an old-fashioned horror story, one that involves a supernatural entity attached to a family member with a history of dark secrets. Not relying on CGI effects, the natural eerie dark atmosphere sustains a chilling mood throughout for this clever narrative. I found it convincing (to a point) and genre pleasing. I applaud the inventive efforts of the promising filmmaker, who does much with almost nothing.
REVIEWED ON 7/23/2016 GRADE: B