I am always a little hesitant when going into a film about the horrors of grief. I, unexpectedly, lost my first husband in September of 2016 and my life hasn’t been the same. For instance: I am so much more sensitive to the realistic depiction of death and grieving than I once was. And watching a feature that uses grief as a narrative tool seems somewhat masochistic. However, I am a huge fan of writer/director Bryan Bertino (The Strangers). And I will watch anything with which he is involved. So, with that in mind, I went out on a limb and gave The Dark and the Wicked a chance.
The film follows brother and sister Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Marin Ireland Michael Abbott Jr.) as they tend to their ailing father. Their dad is bedridden and catatonic. In spite of his non-responsiveness, an evil lurks around him that distorts reality and ruins lives. Much in the way that grief has the very real potential to do if not dealt with in a constructive and therapeutic manner.
As I mentioned above, The Dark and the Wicked is a film about the horrors of grief and the destructive power it has when not properly addressed. The picture uses the personification of grief as its central antagonist and takes great care to depict how inescapable it is and how it has the potential to impact everyone around you. The flick even makes a case for how unmanaged grief has the very real ability distort one’s grasp on reality.
With that said, there’s more to this flick than just serving as a metaphor for the dangers of unprocessed trauma. This is an atmospheric, dark, and spooky tale that is as entertaining as it is heartbreaking. This slow burn horror thriller delivers relatable characters that respond to tragedy the way one would expect. And, in true Bertino style, there are ample frightful surprises and well-timed scares along the way that are likely to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.
The Dark and the Wicked definitely kept me riveted and had me biting my nails quite a bit during most of the third act. But, similar to the grief-driven horror film Hereditary, I probably won’t be in a rush to rewatch this flick anytime soon. It took a lot out of me emotionally. And it took me to places I don’t necessarily enjoy going. However, that’s far from being a criticism. Good cinema should make you feel something. This isn’t meant to be a breezy picture that will leave you with a smile on your face and a spring in your step when the credits roll. It’s supposed to be raw and unpleasant and truly horrifying. It got under my skin and made me uncomfortable. And that’s precisely what it was meant to do.
My only (minor) criticism of the film itself is that it asks a bit much in terms of suspension of disbelief. In one such sequence, a character cuts their fingers off as effortlessly as one would slice a carrot, which is pretty unlikely. Cutting through bone would take a lot more than a quick chop with a kitchen knife. While I usually wouldn’t be bothered by something like that, the flick’s serious tone and lack of any discernible irony makes me feel that Bertino wasn’t really entitled to the same latitude a filmmaker telling a more jovial tale might be.
As for the film’s home video release, it’s not exactly loaded up with bonus content. There is one really cool special feature, which is literally the only special feature. The Blu-ray release includes a Fantasia Fest Q&A with stars Marin Ireland ok Michael Abbott Jr. I would definitely recommend giving that a spin after you finish the flick. My chief criticism of the home video release is that there aren’t more bonus features included. I would have loved the chance to get into Bryan Bertino’s head and hear him talk about crafting a scene or why he is so good at terrifying audiences. Alas, nothing of the sort was included.
If you missed The Dark and the Wicked during its VOD bow, you can check it out now on Blu-ray and DVD. And I really think you should.
Wicked Rating: 8/10
Follow us on social media! Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!