Saturday, August 29, 2020

Fantasia '20: The Dark and the Wicked is All Shadow and No Light: A Film Review

*full disclosure: online access to the Fantasia Film Festival was provided by the fine folks hosting the event.

Director/writer: Bryan Bertino.

Cast: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Xander Berkeley and Julie Oliver-Touchstone.

The Dark and the Wicked had one of its first showings at this year's Fantasia Film Festival. The film is from filmmaker Bryan Bertino (The Strangers). His latest was filmed on his own farm. And, this title focuses on one Devilish character and as the Bible says: "be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (Peter 5:8)." That lion stays just off-screen as The Dark and the Wicked stays in very dire and serious territory. A father (Michael Zagst) is dying and much of the film focuses on this patriarch and his fading health. Meanwhile, every characters' beliefs will be challenged in this release and so might the viewer's.

The tone of the film is unusually dark. Much of the film takes place near the dying father, or in a dark ranch house. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure is stalking just outside the home. Somewhat depressing, The Dark and the Wicked offers no light moments. The film is basically ninety minutes of punishing darkness (in tone) and seriousness, with many characters led astray. Folks might want to stay away from this release, unless they are seeking out a depressing time.

The story is fairly basic, outside of the supernatural elements. The father is on his death bed and his son (Michael Abbott Jr.) and daughter (Marin Ireland) have come to pay their respects. However, the father does not go into the great beyond peacefully and instead lingers on and on...In the interim, sheep are being slaughtered, while characters are dying left and right. The Father of Lies uses a series of illusions to get what he wants - more and more death. And, this is one family curse that wont go away - until everyone has paid a full price.

One Positive Film Element is Bertino's Use of Shadows.
The Dark and the Wicked
is full of Christian motifs and symbology. Sheep are often mentioned in the Bible and they are seen here: "the Lord's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd (Numbers 27:17)." However, the focus of the film is more on the Devil. Of course, the Devil is shown here as a wolf, who is stalking the many sheep (the characters). Still, not even the Christian characters can find any solace here; one even gets a needle to the eye. Steeped in Christian themes and symbology, Bertino is saying something about Christianity, but that message is not clear.

The Dark and the Wicked had one showing at this year's online Fantasia. One showing is all someone would need as the film is overly dark and sombre. Very punishing in its seriousness and use of violence, The Dark and the Wicked will entertain few and disturb even more. Somewhat slow in pace and focused on family drama, this is not going to be a film for everyone and may even feel like a crucifixion to others.

Overall: 5.75 out of 10.

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