FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Dec 12, 2010

But HOW soon?

I've not seen the original 1970 film And Soon the Darkness. To be honest, I'd never even heard of it before some of you put it on your SHOCKtober Top 20 lists. That's right- I don't know about every movie ever made. I know that comes as quite a shock- frankly, I'm still reeling from the realization myself- but try to hold yourself together. If not for me or for yourself, then for the children.

I'll tell you what I have seen, however- I have seen the 2010 remake of And Soon the Darkness titled, oddly enough, And Soon the Darkness!

Stop me if you've heard this one before: a couple of vacationing young ladies get stranded in Vacationland (here, it's Argentina) and run afoul of dangerous danger that includes unhelpful locals, authority figures who cannot be trusted, fellow Americans who cannot be trusted, human traffickers, and, one assumes, sunburns because they lay out constantly but never wear sunscreen. Oh, the young and their reckless ways!

Ellie (Odette Yustman) is the wild one, whose drunken flirtations with the locals will surely lead to trouble. Stephanie (Amber Heard) is the sensible one, whose caution and awareness will surely help them out of any scrapes. After an argument, the girls separate and Ellie promptly disappears. Stephanie takes it upon herself to find her friend, reluctantly enlisting the aid of Michael (Karl Urban), another American who's always lurking about and acting nosy...and whose aid may not be aid at all.

In the end, And Soon the Darkness is another serviceable entry in that post-9/11 subgenre of xenophobic horror. Throughout, you can't shake the feeling that you've seen this exact type "Americans vs Strangers in a Strange Land" flick before; after seeing Turistas, The Ruins, Hostel, etc, it all gets same-y same-y and you know precisely where the film is going to go. And yeah, that's where And Soon the Darkness goes- that depressing place where women are nothing but commodities to them pesky ol' foreigners.

Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately, depending on your personal hopes and dreams), this flick is far more "thriller" than "horror"; mind you, I was happy it didn't feature the torture scenes and wince-inducing gore that could be considered rote for this little subgenre. Hell, I love a good thriller...but there was a tantalizing tease of...mmm, a feeling that, for a moment, led me to believe that And Soon the Darkness wouldn't go where I thought it would go. Allow me to explain, won't you?

At their hotel, the girls find a pamphlet for Villa del Lago, which looks like a delightful place to, say, sunbathe without sunscreen. The hotel's proprietress warns them away, however, with essentially a "Ravenholm...we don't go there anymore". It's a ghost town, there's nothing to see, see- but the look in her eyes said fear! Fear, I tells ya! As you can assume, the action ends up in del Lago, and damn- it looked like a post-nuclear wasteland. How creepy! How cool! How sinister! How...disappointing when we learn nothing about how it got to be that way or what happened. How much of a wasted opportunity when there's nothing sinister afoot in Villa del Lago beyond...well, the human traffickers who find the abandoned buildings convenient for their purposes.

It reminded me a bit of Wolf Creek (2005)- if you've seen it, then maybe you noticed all the hints to supernatural phenomena that were dropped only to be abandoned. In other words, the "Oh, so it's just that" realization was more than a bit of a metaphorical boner-killer.

While her character's obnoxious nature doesn't help matters, Yustman proves to be as insufferable as she was in The Unborn. On the other hand, Heard is likable enough to elicit a "Where the fuck is Mandy Lane, Region 1?" Karl Urban...well, he wears sunglasses a lot! That's about all he can do here.

Hmm, I suddenly feel as if I'm being way harsh, Tai on And Soon the Darkness and I don't necessarily mean to be. It's solid enough, and not a terrible way to spend 90 minutes. It's just too familiar to get terribly excited about, and when it's all over, it was what it was. No twists you won't see coming, no unexpected outcomes. Reliable, I suppose. Sort of like my friend who always makes the same exact oatmeal chocolate chip cookies whenever there's an occasion that calls for such behavior. They're fine. They always taste the same, which is not a bad thing- I mean, I eat them every time they're there. But still, when the Saran Wrap is lifted and I see the pile of them, I can't help but think "Put some fucking raisins in them one of these years, or make a GD Snickerdoodle or some shit." There's nothing inherently wrong with the same ol', but then again, variety is the something something of life.


Anonymous said...

The original film isn't bad; there's enough atmosphere to sustain its running length, and it delivers some moments.

From your description, it sounds as if the remake has tried (too hard?) to shoehorn in some contemporary thriller/horror tropes, whereas the original seems embedded in a post-hippie miasma of mistrust.

Leigh-Ann said...

No more cookies for you :p

B.STANK said...

Nice review! While reading about how lame this movie is, I definitely experienced some metaphorical "shrinkage". But, nothing brings on a good boner like oatmeal choc chip cookies WITH raisins!

Anonymous said...

Wow. A Clueless refrence in a horror movie review? Nice.

Andre Dumas said...

This is sad because the original ain't too shabby. In fact I fully recommend that you see it Stacie.
It's one of those awesome movies that takes place in you know.....the day time.
It also really just has some fantastic moments, imagery etc. And a hilarious goof, plus english women who wear short shorts.

I knew if a remake were to happen it would go the Turistas route. Which is a shame because you don't get that sense in the original. See it damn it Stacie SEE IT!

Stacie Ponder said...

After I saw this, I decided to ruin the original for myself by reading about it to compare the two and yeah, it sounds quite different. Maybe the same in some of the bare bones aspects (ie who can actually be trusted in the end), but not in execution.

Again, this isn't a BAD movie, I don't think, just kind of boring.

deadlydolls said...

I totally echo Andre (who actually recommended the original to me). It's a slow film, but the atmosphere is fantastic and I think it really captures what it feels like to be a foreigner in a land where you don't speak the language. Sure, it's directed by "The Devil's Rain"'s Robert Fuest, but seriously: strong strong film. Watch it Stacie!

Anonymous said...

I think you should tag "GD Snickerdoodle or some shit."

johnbgood52 said...

I'm not a fan of Yustman either. She's grotesquely skinny and can't act worth a dry fuck. But that's beside the point, which is that this movie bears only a superficial resemblance to the 1970 original. As is often the case with remakes of older movies, the filmmakers update the story line in an attempt to make it more relevant to modern audiences, to the point where what they end up with isn't really a reboot at all, but just a somewhat similar movie with the same title. Not really a big deal in this case, since the original is't all that well known and is hardly a classic itself, but having seen both, I can tell you it's a lot better than this mess.