How Stupid? – #01 – Dark Light (2019)

Dark Light opens with Annie (Jessica Madsen) parading around the house with a shotgun, before accidentally shooting her ex-boyfriend, Paul (Ed Brody). The scene ends with her aiming it towards her daughter, Emily (Opal Littleton), and firing.

Then, because non-linear storytelling is a thing, we cut back to the beginning, showing Annie and Emily moving into Annie’s old childhood home. A quick scene informs us that Annie and Paul, Emily’s father, have recently split under acrimonious circumstances, and this house is Annie’s last resort.

That night Annie is awoken to sounds, and, after inspecting, glances a monstrous figure briefly. That’s not enough to frighten Annie, though, who simply returns to bed. The next day Paul arrives unannounced, much to Annie’s chagrin, and lays the foundation of Annie’s past: her mother committed suicide and he suspects her of being insane. She also calls the local sheriff, Dickerson (Kristina Clifford), who doesn’t inspect the house all-too-much, and informs her of the strange incident in the night.

Insane she may not be; stupid, however, she is: the next night, despite seeing a quick glance of a creature and suspecting kids, she takes Emily out into the corn fields when it’s pitch-black to play flashlight tag. #Stupid.

Obviously, she loses track of Emily and sees more lights and figures in the field. However, her stupidity is not done: upon looking back at the house, she spots Emily back in her room, but sees a shadowy figure, three windows away, walking towards her. But Annie doesn’t move. She waits. She watches as the figure moves across two more windows, getting much closer to Emily, before deciding to move. #Stupid.

And Annie goes for the triple header of stupidity as after all this, she decides against phoning the sheriff until the next morning, despite humanoid figures lurking around her house. (Did she just fall back asleep after that as if nothing happened?) This, despite threatening to call her. Don’t threaten: call. #Stupid.

The next morning, she does finally call the sheriff, who again inspects the house and finds nothing. Paul arrives again and instead of choosing to stay to see for himself whether his ex is crazy or if her house is being stalked (both options present danger for his daughter), he leaves. #Stupid.

That night she puts Emily to bed again, but she can’t sleep and comes into Annie’s bed (why didn’t you do that at the start?). Annie’s awoken in the middle of the night and needs to splash her face but turns to see a figure walking into her room. But Annie’s in no rush. She waits. Again. And by the time she moves, it’s too late.

This time she does phone the sheriff, as her daughter has now vanished, and the sheriff finds Emily in the fields with a bloodied nose, not wanting to go home. More evidence on their part pointing towards Annie being a risk to her daughter.

This is the moment where you nope the f- out of this house and leave. If your daughter is disappearing, being hunted by creatures and appearing with random nosebleeds: it’s not safe.

But we don’t need to focus on that, as that leads into the opening scene before cutting to Annie in jail because her daughter’s gone missing and the sheriff suspects Annie of killing and burying her.

When she’s being transferred to a nearby facility, though, a rogue cow in the middle of the road causes the police van to skid violently off a cliff, leaving everyone, bar Annie, dead. Well that’s lucky.

Annie returns home – a home not guarded or being investigated, despite being the scene of a potential double homicide – and takes a bath. #Stupid. I don’t care how smelly you are, deal with it. Your daughter’s missing, you’re wanted by the police, your house is infected with aliens: you don’t need a bath.

A rare moment of hope for her sanity, though, follows as she reveals she hid two guns under the floorboards (another shotgun and a .38). #Clever.

She tracks down a local conspiracy man, Walter (Gerald Tyler), who believes her story of the aliens and reveals all he knows about them. But while Annie wants to kill them, Walter wants to study them, and traps Annie in a room before racing to her house to confront these aliens. Walter’s trapping of Annie, while stupid, isn’t the action of a protagonist, so it’s not included in the results. The creatures catch Walter and eventually cause him to die. It’s lucky for this film that Walter’s stupidity isn’t counted, as he got into his car without even noticing a six-foot creature in the back seat.

The sheriff finds Walter’s body and return to his house, freeing Annie from her imprisonment – but not noticing her hiding away – and Annie sneaks away. Despite having evidence confirming Annie survived the police van’s crash, they still don’t have police protection around Annie’s house, so she’s able to return home, grab her guns and hunt the creatures.

During this hunt scene, she is seen loading up the shotgun with bullets. Remember that.

She is soon caught by the sheriff, who used common sense to return to the house, and is forced to drop her shotgun on the ground. A creature appears and kills the sheriff.

Annie runs into the kitchen, away from the creature, but doesn’t choose to pick up the shotgun. #Stupid. She’s attacked but fends off the creature, before finally retrieving the shotgun and loading it up with bullets. I know it’s a mistake on the part of the filmmakers, but in this world, she’s loaded up a gun, taken the bullets out to load it up again.

Paul returns, completely no-selling the fact he was shot by a shotgun at close range a mere few days ago, and he’s dragged away. Annie finds their method of entering the house (the very same place she first saw them – underneath the dumbwaiter) and follows down into their tunnels made of stone. Remember that. She finds Paul and wakes him up, and despite carrying a shotgun, a .38 and a taser, refuses to give up any weapons. They find Emily, having her life drained from her, and decide to have a conversation. #Stupid. Her daughter is dying, any petti squabbles they’ve had (he cheated on her when her mother was dying because, in his words, she was having a nervous breakdown: top bloke) should be of no concern. Instead he chooses to distract the creatures but again, Annie refuses to give up any of her weapons, essentially affording him no opportunity to make it out alive. #Stupid.

She wakes up Emily and races out of the underground cave, shoots a few creatures, tasers some others, and burns down the house. #Clever. Her decision to burn down the house prevents any means of them sneaking around again. However, the flames are shown igniting violently underground. Where there’s less oxygen. In tunnels made of stone. My knowledge on fire isn’t great, but a stone room with less oxygen doesn’t seem like the most flammable of places.

The house burns down, we see glimpses of surviving creatures – laughably alluding to a sequel – before the credits roll.

Now, let’s talk about the creatures: it’s told by Walter they suck the life out of children as it’s purer in them than adults. But they still suck Walter and the sheriff’s lives. But not Paul; they bite him to death. Is there a reason they bite him? Other than the screenplay wanting him to die and biting is quicker than being drained? Is there a reason why the sheriff died within seconds, Walter a little longer and Emily, the child, even longer than him? Nope. Of course not.

They’re also alluded to being creatures older than humans (or something) but they’re very much creatures. Physical creatures. Yet they can open and close doors by magic, disappear and reappear without a trace and survive without food for a very long time (nobody has lived in that home for a while, despite the corn looking well kept, and Annie never experienced their presence when she lived there as a child). The mysterious power to open and close doors is particularly stupid, though, as it leads to an interpretation of them being ghosts. Their design is okay, I guess, but they’ve been given no thought into how they kill, why they kill or their powers.

8/10: They All Need A ‘Warning: I’m Stupid’ Label.

Common Sense Award: Sheriff Dickerson

Braindead Award: Annie

Review:

Dark Light probably had intentions of being terrifying and captivating, but everything fell flat. The Invisible Man showed how to effectively portray a lead heroine’s apparent descent into madness, with Dark Light amateurish by comparison. She’s told to have had a history of nervous breakdowns, yet that plays no part in the overall story, aside from gifting other characters a reason not to like her.

Walter’s antagonistic betrayal was as stupid as Sartain’s was in Halloween; he could have used her as bait or betrayed her after encountering the creatures, but instead chose to go alone. And that’s a big problem with Dark Light: its characters.

Ignoring the fact that most of the actors are extremely poor (especially Opal Littleton, who said ‘Mommy’ at the end of every sentence, and Kristina Clifford), the writing of them is abysmal. Nearly everything they do is questionable at best. The creatures are also poorly written, with no rhyme or reason for half of the powers they have or lore they’re given.

Writer-director Padraig Reynolds doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, with jump scares and things that go bump in the night littered throughout. Most of this film is just Annie walking with a shotgun in hand while doors open and close for no reason. He also has scenes end abruptly, as he seemingly can’t conclude them properly. After Annie sees Emily on the roof, it cuts to the next morning. After the sheriff returns Emily, whose nose is bleeding, home, the scene ends. After Annie spots the creature underneath the dumbwaiter, the scene ends. Add to that the past-and-present non-linear storytelling and this film is just a jumbled mess from start to finish.

There’s no fear, no anxiety, no logic and no direction. A poor script directed into a poor movie.

The visuals aren’t terrible, though. (Except the CGI fire; that’s bad.)

The Cast Leader: Jessica Madsen

The Cast Loser: Opal Littleton

Personal: * Acting: * * Writing: * Presentation: * *

Overall: * ½

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