There is an ongoing belief that isolation can have damaging consequences on the human mind. While there are those that repress their emotions and adamantly believe that by placing a rift between ourselves and society or community, we are less likely to encounter any harmful or negative experiences and therefore be safe from the dangers that the world can expose.
And yet the fear of being alone or dying alone is incredibly prominent in some circles and can signify the feeling of a life not yet lived or to the full.
This is why it is often the subject in horror films and can stir the trepidation of being stranded or stuck in the middle of nowhere, far from any hope or signs of life, tormented by an evil presence.
Sometimes this is done well but often can fall prey to horror tropes and jump scares with little or no lasting effect on its audience.
The Dark and The Wicked, the latest Exclusive and Original feature from Shudder is happily from the former and delivers a deeply psychological and disturbing feature.
Set on a secluded farm, two siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott. Jr) return to the family homestead to help their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) with their dying father, whom we are told is at death’s door.
Their mother though appears distraught and disconnected from everyone, and warns the siblings that they shouldn’t have come. Before long, she snaps, cuts off her fingers and then hangs herself.
The siblings are then left trying to figure out what could have possessed their mother with the help of their father’s nurse (Lynn Andrews) that a demonic spirit is trying to take the soul of their father.
Spun out by the overwhelming and perturbing manner in which their mother took her own life and the threat that there may be something dark and sinister lurking in the shadows, that is driven to bring all those in the vicinity into its wake.
Are they experiencing a group hallucination? Is there more to the mysterious priest (Xander Berkley) or has something else taken up residence among them?
Director Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) is clearly drawn to the subject of isolation, fractured lives and what the fear of the unknown can have on the psyche.
Here, he crafts and wrangles out every last ounce of agitation from a small, yet strong cast by wallowing them through grief and the brink of despair until they are consumed by their emotions.
It is a slow-burn, but the strenuous ordeal through which both its leads and the audience is drawn through is well worth the payoff.
- Saul Muerte