US (dir. Marcos Efron)
Cast: Odette Yustman, Amber Heard, Gia Mantegna, Cesar Vianco, Michel Noher, Luis Sabatini, Daniel Figuereido, Jorge Booth, Javier Luna, Andrea Verdun, Nicolas Dolensky, Walter Peña, Esteban Pastrana, Matias Paz Conde, Maria Salome Cari, Hugo Miranda, Magdalena Peralta Antivero, Karl Urban, Adriana Barraza
Synopsis: Stephanie and Ellie’s vacation to an exotic village in Argentina is a perfect ‘girl’s getaway’ to bask in the sun, shop and flirt with the handsome locals. After a long night of bar-hopping, the girls get into an argument, and Stephanie heads out alone in the morning to cool off. But when she returns, Ellie has disappeared. Finding signs of a struggle, Stephanie fears the worst, and turns to the police for help. But the local authorities have their hands full already – with a string of unsolved kidnappings targeting young female tourists. Skeptical of the sheriff’s competency, she enlists help from Michael , an American ex-pat staying at their hotel. Together they go on a frantic search for Ellie, but Stephanie soon realizes that trusting his seemingly good intentions may drag her farther from the truth. With danger mounting, and time running out, Stephanie must find her friend before darkness falls.
Review: “And Soon the Darkness” is terribly predictable, despite what I’m sure were the best intentions of everyone involved in making the film. Though it starts off as a cliche-ridden “vacation horror” type of film that you might write off as being the next “Touristas”, “Hostel: Part 2”, or “Wolf Creek” it quickly turns into something more along the lines of “Shuttle”. Unfortunately though, with very little new brought to the table and with nothing really unexpected or unpredictable occurring, this just feels a lot like the same old, same old to me. Given that it’s a remake of a largely forgotten 1970s thriller of the same name, it’s at least not a deplorable effort – one that can be forgiven for its short-comings in lieu of what is at the very least, a fairly decent story.
You know they are running out of stuff to remake when they are remaking films you didn’t even know existed in the first place, and such is the case with “And Soon the Darkness”. Though I haven’t seen the original, the remake apparently mimics a very similar setup, right down to the fact that the vacationers are bicyclists. There are some major changes in plot, but fortunately this is not some sort of “Prom Night”, in-name only remake. It’s similar enough to the original to be considered a respectable remake, but it also has the balls to be a little different.
I can’t stress enough how absolutely nothing happens in “And Soon the Darkness” that you really didn’t see coming. There are no twists and no shocking third act where some incredible and shocking revelation is made. All the typical vacation horror tropes are here: the locals have sinister intentions for the Americans, one kindly local tries to help out but is ignored, the cops are corrupt, and the good guy is suspected of being a bad guy before it is discovered that he really was just a good guy all along, one of the vacationers is a mild disrespectful floozy while the other is the sensible one, etc. etc. Add to that some one dimensional characters and the nagging question of “haven’t I already seen this before?” and you have yet another xenophobic, post-9/11 horror film where the vulnerabilities of being a stranger in a foreign land are used as a medium for a horror story.
Despite a torture-porn ready opening scene involving a woman being whipped by electrified cables which may or may not evoke some fond memories of “Hostel”, there’s nothing else in this movie that is so brazenly suggestive of a horror film. This one is more of the thriller variety, really – one with an inexplicable R rating to boot. It’s blatantly obvious that the director, Marcos Efron, was maintaining a considerable amount of restraint, even making the film’s villainous human traffickers seem about as harmless as priests. Too much restraint, perhaps?
I really wasn’t looking forward to seeing Odette Yustman in this film, or her weird spindly, spider-like legs as I’d had quite enough of her after seeing “The Unborn”, however Amber Heard was a bit more of a draw, considering she’s been in the fantastic, yet still unreleased, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” (I’m still trying to forget she was in “The Stepfather”). Yustman proved to be as bland as I’d remembered her to be from her previous performances, but Amber Heard was completely watchable despite the delivery of a few cheesy lines. It seemed kind of implausible that Heard could so easily take down not one, but three human traffickers, lending more credence to my complaint that the traffickers weren’t as menacing as they could have been, but hey, I guess it’s forgivable.
What’s not forgivable is the complete lack of explanation for the Villa del Lago ghost town which is where a lot of the action goes down. There could have been an interesting supernatural story arc based on the ghost town, but sadly we don’t even get an explanation for how it became a ghost town, it just is. Wasted opportunity to make the movie a little more interesting, maybe?
“And Soon the Darkness” is a remake that honestly could have been worse. A lot worse. And yet, it’s a surprisingly watchable and mildly enjoyable film. It’s never going to receive any major accolades or be any critic’s darling, but it’s a solid, steady work. Sure it feels a lot like something that should have been a Lifetime or W movie of the week and yeah, the terrible poster art looks like a bad mash-up of the ubiquitous floating head movie poster (the “look at who’s in this movie!” type, i.e. “Scream 2”, “Urban Legend” etc.) with what appears to be soft core porn (as evidenced by the photo of Amber Heard and Odette Yustman in their bikinis), but at least the film succeeds where so many others (*cough* “Touristas”) have failed. It’s not the worst thing to come out in 2010, but it’s sadly a film that will be easily forgotten.